Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce pain in patients who believe that they are re...

Facundo on January 15, 2016

Help

I dont understand this passage

4 Replies

Mehran on January 25, 2016

The conclusion here is that "administering placebos is nonetheless ethically questionable."

The support (i.e. premise) provided for this conclusion? Because even if a placebo benefits a patient, a doctor might have prescribed it just to give the patient satisfaction that something was being done.

Notice the gap in this argument. The premise is about the doctor's motivation for prescribing the placebo and the conclusion drawn is that administering placebos is ethically questionable.

This is a Strengthen with Necessary Premise question so we are looking for the necessary assumption.

(B) states "the motivation for administering a placebo can be relevant to the ethical justification for doing so."

This clearly strengthens the argument by closing the gap between the doctor's motivation and ethically questionable.

Now let's negate (B) to make sure that it is also NECESSARY to the argument.

The negation of (B) is: the motivation for administering a placebo CANNOT be relevant to the ethical justification for doing so.

The negation of (B) would destroy the argument so (B) is the necessary assumption.

Hope this helps! Please let us know if you have any other questions.

on July 19 at 11:13AM

Please could you explain why the other answer choices are incorrect?

I found the conclusion in this question, but I am not sure how to get from there to figuring out the gap / finding the necessary assumption here?

Victoria on July 20 at 03:02PM

Hi @Anna2020,

Happy to help!

In Strengthen with Necessary Premise questions, after you have found the conclusion, go back and find the gap in reasoning between the premise(s) and the conclusion.

Here, the passage concludes that administering placebos is ethically questionable.

Why? Because the doctor might have prescribed the placebo for the purpose of giving the patient the satisfaction that something was being done rather than for the purpose of providing medical benefits.

The passage jumps from the motivation for prescribing the placebo to concluding that this is ethically questionable. Why is this ethically questionable? The passage doesn't say. We might have our own value judgments which suggest why this is ethical or not, but the passage doesn't provide us with any information on this.

Therefore, as Mehran outlined above, answer choice (B) is correct as it closes this gap by telling us that motivation can be relevant to ethical justification in the case of placebos.

Answer choice (A) is incorrect because it is irrelevant. We are discussing the ethics of placebos, not the suitability of particular medical treatments. Additionally, the stimulus suggests that doctors do consider patients' psychological satisfaction as they may prescribe the placebos for the purpose of satisfying the patient.

Answer choice (C) is incorrect for two reasons. First, we don't know if these doctors are prescribing placebos on their own or in conjunction with other medical treatments. Second, the passage doesn't conclude that this practice is ethically indefensible; rather, it concludes that it is ethically questionable.

Answer choice (D) is incorrect because this weakens the conclusion. If the deception is justified, then it would not be ethically questionable.

Answer choice (E) is incorrect because it is irrelevant. The passage only discusses placebos that are prescribed by doctors.

Hope this is helpful! Please let us know if you have any further questions.

on July 20 at 05:02PM

This is so helpful Victoria, thank you so much!!