Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ethical Dilemma

I have a dilemma I'd like to discuss with you. You see, medical science has shown that local honey cures allergies no better than placebo. However, medical science is also now using the placebo effect to treat actual conditions, usually involving pain.
It goes like this, for the past century or so, medical science has tested new medicines against a placebo, sugar pill, fake medicine, whatever you want to call it. Medicines that have more effects than the placebo are shown to be effective. Medicines that are shown to be around the same as the placebo are tossed out, assuming they don't work, since the placebo has no actual medical effect.
The problem is, the placebo works, lots of times, maybe in around a third of the population. There are many people here who believe in homeopathy who will be happy to tell you that the placebo works (though they'll call it homeopathy).
I have for the past several years, avoided saying that local honey helps with allergies because medical science has demonstrated that it does not work better than placebo. But we know that the placebo still works in a portion of the population. So lately, I have taken to saying "that's what they say" when people bring up this folk remedy. The other day, I went a step further. I sold some honey to someone who after they bought it mentioned something about allergies. The problem was, I never told them it wasn't local honey. They never asked.
So, since local honey works no better than placebo, but placebo still works, and I sell honey (local or otherwise) I am effectively administering a placebo. People believe it works, so it works. I don't want to lie to them, but the very nature of a placebo requires that the patient assume effectiveness, or even in some cases, knowing it's a placebo, they will effectiveness into it.
What do I do? I am a very honest and forthright person. But I also want to help people and sell honey.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly. Not only is there no scientific evidence supporting the use of local honey for hay fever, there's actual evidence against it- only trace pollen in honey (well, that's enough, the homeopathics would say) and the pollens that cause allergies are from wind-pollinated plants. The fact that the Grandmother didn't include this in their remedy lore is also suspicious; why haven't we heard about this before the 90s?
    I'm curious about the origins of this little myth, but not enough to try to track it down.
    I agree with you about the placebo effect, and use pretty much the same language when
    someone tells me how they were cured of seasonal allergies or recommends I try it, along with "Ahhh, interesting" or " well, my goodness" which seems to be universally placating and conversation stopping when repeated.
    That IS a fuzzy ethical area I think, selling the honey to the believer, but unless there's intention to deceive I think you're in the clear. I wish I'd seen this post 2 years ago when you wrote it- I've been lonely in my belief that local honey for allergies is a crock.