Does Judaism allow placebos where the person thinks it does something, and is thereby cured, even though the item does nothing?

Is this gnevas da'as (or some other issur), or because it can help them it's permitted to mislead them this way.

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    @DoubleAA, that seems to be the question here.
    – msh210
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 22:53
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    @DoubleAA I think the asker is asking about practice on the surface of the moon.
    – msh210
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 22:55
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    I'm saying in the US at least (and probably most Western countries), this is not an issue of Geneivat Daat because people know what the deal is
    – Double AA
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 22:59
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    @MonicaCellio Nowhere in the question does it say "In the United States", it said "Does Judaism". I don't know why DoubleAA even brought up US law. And in any case it's not so obvious that it's required in the US anyway. When they do studies they will sometimes write the placebos name in some technical way hoping people do not know what it is without outright lying. And it's currently a big debate if doctors should be allowed to prescribe them - but anecdotally, they already do. It's not unusual for doctors to prescribe some pill that does nothing to someone with psychosomatic illness.
    – Ariel
    Commented May 9, 2013 at 19:20
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    @Ariel, I agree that the scope of the question is not just the US. (I assume questions are global unless limited.) I was just trying to cut off all considerations of secular law anywhere, but I see your point that the question already does that. (And I had already upvoted it.) Commented May 9, 2013 at 19:29

1 Answer 1


Nishmat Avraham writes on this (vol 2, p.12)

[Placebo trials] are permissible provided that

  • the patient gives his full consent after being fully informed of the possible risks and that he may be put into one of other group randomly
  • all patients, regardless of which group they will belong to, will continue to receive the medication they were getting until now. The experimental drug or placebo is merely added to their present treatment

PS. As a reminder the author, Dr. Abraham S. Abraham, is a leading physician in Israel. He doesn't address "the law of the land" in his response

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