© 2020

Placebo Effects: The Meaning of Care in Medicine

  • The first book that explores the conceptual confusion related to the concepts placebo and placebo effect

  • Performs a detailed analysis of the use and different meanings of the terms ‘placebo’ and ‘placebo effect’ in scientific and philosophical literature

  • Studies the historical context in which these concepts were introduced into the medical vocabulary


Part of the The International Library of Bioethics book series (ILB)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Pekka Louhiala
    Pages 1-17
  3. Pekka Louhiala
    Pages 19-39
  4. Pekka Louhiala
    Pages 41-97
  5. Pekka Louhiala
    Pages 99-120
  6. Pekka Louhiala
    Pages 121-130
  7. Pekka Louhiala
    Pages 131-134

About this book


This book provides a perspective on the concepts placebo and placebo effects, which has been missing so far: a detailed analysis of the history of the terms, their current use, suggested alternatives and the implications of the conceptual confusion. Everybody knows something about placebos and placebo effects. If, however, people are asked to define the concepts, the spectrum becomes wide. Does 'placebo' refer to an inert treatment or does it cover all elements of the patient-physician-interaction except for pharmacological or other physiological mechanisms? Furthermore, if, by definition, a placebo has no effect, what sense does it make to talk about a 'placebo effect'? Even in scientific literature the concepts ‘placebo’ and ‘placebo effect’ are used in many senses and often in a confusing way. While this book discusses many issues which keep puzzling physicians, it also covers the historical developments of the concepts of placebo and placebo effect as well as the conceptual confusion in the definitions. This book is intended for physicians, philosophers, psychologists and any other people interested in placebos, placebo effects and the physician-patient relationship.


clinical use of placebos nocebo patient-physician-interaction placebo and placebo effect placebo response placebos and placebo effects

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

About the authors

Pekka Louhiala is a lecturer in medical ethics at the University of Helsinki, Finland. He has degrees in both medicine and philosophy, and he also works as a part-time paediatrician in private practice. He has published on various topics in medical ethics, philosophy of medicine and epidemiology. His current academic interests include conceptual and philosophical issues in medicine, such as evidence-based medicine and placebo effects.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Placebo Effects: The Meaning of Care in Medicine
  • Authors Pekka Louhiala
  • Series Title The International Library of Bioethics
  • Series Abbreviated Title The International Library of bioeth.
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-27327-9
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-27329-3
  • Series ISSN 2662-9186
  • Series E-ISSN 2662-9194
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages X, 134
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Bioethics
    Theory of Medicine/Bioethics
    History of Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Health & Hospitals


“This book is for anyone interested in or confused by placebos and the language around their use. The author is deeply familiar with the literature. … the book will be quite useful for readers new to the literature. … Overall, this book is very strong as a comprehensive literature summary.” (Michael Sauder, Doody's Book Reviews, June 25, 2021)