A comparative study with depressed patients on the acceptability of placebo use

Kfir Feffer, Pesach Lichtenberg, Gideon Becker, Yuval Bloch, Roni Netzer, Uri Nitzan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective High rates of placebo responses are consistently reported in patients with major depressive disorder. Nonetheless, treating depression with placebo is still ethically controversial and generally prohibited in the clinical setting. In the present study, we assess the acceptability of placebo usage among depressed patients. Method Ninety-six outpatients with major depressive disorder were matched to 114 healthy controls. After a thorough explanation of the placebo effect, its efficacy and limitations in the treatment of depression, the study participants completed a 32-item self-report questionnaire. The five core questions addressed the attitude and willingness of subjects to be treated with a placebo in the clinical setting. Results Among study group patients, the majority (56.7%) conveyed consent for placebo treatment if they were to suffer another depressive episode. Both study group and control group expressed high rates of willingness to waive their right to informed consent (55.6% and 50%, respectively), and they did not consider placebo treatment to be a deceit (56%) or to diminish their sense of autonomy (56.7%). Conclusions Most patients with depression are willing to waive their right to informed consent in order to receive placebo treatment. These findings should encourage further studies of placebo usage and its legitimacy in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-56
Number of pages4
JournalGeneral Hospital Psychiatry
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Antidepressants
  • Depression
  • Informed consent
  • Placebo


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