Applying the Placebo Effect to a Real-Life Scenario

Applying the Placebo Effect to a Real-Life Scenario


Read the scenario shown here. Then answer the questions. Remember to consider the placebo effect when thinking about this scenario and how to respond to it.

What Should the Allens Do?

Mr. and Mrs. Allen were faced with a difficult situation. Mr. Allen was in the early stages of pancreatic cancer. Although he could still drive and cook—his lifelong passion—he was getting weaker by the day. Each day, he spent more time in his recliner, watching television and dozing.

The Allens’ oncologist told them about a clinical trial that Mr. Allen would be eligible for. The only problem was that it was a double-blind study, meaning that no one, including the Allens and the researchers, would know whether Mr. Allen was receiving the placebo or the medication being investigated. Mrs. Allen was afraid that they could lose valuable time if her husband signed up for the clinical trial and then received the placebo. His condition could worsen. But if he received the medication, he could improve. She kept weighing the pros and cons, uncertain what to do.
After reading the scenario, pick a partner. Work together to write a recommendation for the Allens.

You can use these questions to guide your thinking:

What issues do you think the Allens need to consider?


Do you think the Allens should ask for additional information before making a decision?


Based on what you know about Mr. Allen’s situation, as well as the placebo effect, what would you recommend that he and his wife do?



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