Medicine: Humble Humbug

Placebo (Latin: I shall please): A medicine, especially an inactive one, given merely to satisfy a patient.

—Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

"Until lately," said last week's Lancet of London in its lead editorial, "the placebo has never been regarded as quite respectable. In the family of drugs it has always been the flea-bitten mongrel dog, kicked into the kitchen when company calls but uncommonly useful for dealing with undesirables at the back door . . . But the spread of scientific methods to the study of materia medica has led to a remarkable improvement in the status of what [Philadelphia's Dr. Oliver...

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