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The Element of Ritual

The Element of Ritual

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Published by Harris Tobias
Doctors finally realize that it's the placebo effect that does all the healing.
Doctors finally realize that it's the placebo effect that does all the healing.

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Published by: Harris Tobias on Apr 05, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Element of RitualFrom the NY Times May 4, 2010...one idea would be to deliberately increase the element of formal ritualin medicine. Studies of “alternative” therapies show that strong placeboeffects can be induced by ritual. Indeed, in mainstream medicine, surgery isthe treatment most surrounded by ritual; perhaps this is one reason itappears to be the most powerful placebo.Nurse Smithers straightened Dr. Baumgartner’s feathered head dress. ithad slipped down below the caduceus so carefully painted on his foreheadby the medical ritual staff. The MR (Medical Ritual) dressing room lookedmore like the backstage at a Broadway show— racks of costumes, shelvespiled high with musical instruments, make up artists and hair stylistsscurried about helping physicians prepare their illusions. It was a far cryfrom the old days before doctors finally understood what healing was allabout—illusion. It was illusions that kept the patient’s belief systemfunctioning and if the patient really believed, they were practically cured.Ritual was Placebo General’s way of maximizing the curative powerslocked away in each patients own belief system. Modern medicine was all
about placebos much to the chagrin of big pharma. There was precious littlemoney to be made from a science fiction set and a shot of salt water. Thesedays medical treatment was more show than substance. If the patientbelieved he was being cured, his mind took care of the rest. His attendingphysician, Dr. Baumgartner, knew that the contents of the syringe he washolding was not nearly as important to the patient’s recovery than the ritualthat preceded it.In this case, the patient, Mr. Louis Silverblank, a portly 60 year old fromNew Jersey, was just waking up from his placebo heart surgery and wasexpecting a shot of painkiller. His pre-surgical work up revealed that Mr.Silverblank was superstitious and distrusted modern medicine. He tended toa strong belief in more primitive forms of treatment. As a result, his surgicalteam dressed for the occasion in a combination of Haitian Voodoo andAmazon rain forest garb. His surgeon, Dr. Numsey, performed the operationin a sterile loin cloth and body paint. Numsey was highly regardedthroughout the region as a master of the elaborate and effective primitivescenario.Nurse Smithers, herself dressed in a flowing muumuu with a colorfultropical theme and a hat filled with colorful fruits, began a rhythmic beatingon a small drum hung around her neck. Dr. Baumgartner accented herrhythm with staccato shakes of a rattle made from a tortoise shell. Together

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