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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 June 30; 334(7608): 1359.
PMCID: PMC1906641


Like a celestial chaperon, the placebo leads us through the uncharted passageways of mind and gives us a greater sense of infinity than if we were to spend all our days with our eyes hypnotically glued to the giant telescope at Mt Palomar. What we see ultimately is that the placebo isn't really necessary and that the mind can carry out its difficult and wondrous missions unprompted by little pills. The placebo is only a tangible object made essential in an age that feels uncomfortable with intangibles, an age that prefers to think that every inner effect must have an outer cause. Since it has size and shape and can be hand held, the placebo satisfies the contemporary craving for visible mechanisms and visible answers. The placebo, then, is an emissary between the will to live and the body.


Norman Cousins (US editor and author, 1915-90). In: Cousins N. Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration. London: W W Norton & Company, 2001:75

Submitted by Mohammed Rashid, medical student, Imperial College, London

Articles from The BMJ are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group