Could studying the placebo effect change the way we think about medicine?

In 2011, Harvard created an institute at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center under the direction of Ted Kaptchuk: its sole purpose being Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter. Can placebos when given deliberately, be employed in clinical practice; could placebos possibly replace medicine?

Something has to change the chain from illness to pill – the simple solution to a single problem.  Somewhere we have to acknowledge the healing power of being witnessed and held in relationship by our doctors: honest words, a pat on the back, encouraging, empathetic resonance. At some point, we have to question the unquestionable: can our expectations have a profound impact on our ability to heal and, if left to its own healing, can the brain produce its own pharmacy? -Sdukes

Michael Specter The New Yorker December 12, 2011, p. 30

Image: Tdukes, 2011