Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Med Ethics. 2000 Jun;26(3):188-93.

Justified deception? The single blind placebo in drug research.

Author information

  • 1Centre for Philosophy and Health Care, School of Health Science, University of Wales Swansea.


"Run-in" and "washout" periods involving the withholding of medication are widely used in drug research trials in pursuit of both patient safety and scientific reliability. Such no-medication periods can be justified ethically provided that they are apparent to patients, who can thereby properly consent to undergoing them. Less widespread, but still common, is the practice of "single blinding" no-medication periods, concealing them from patients by means of placebo. Whilst all placebos involve a measure of concealment, their use is typically justified in drug research trials (i) by their preserving the uncertainty generated by the random allocation of different treatments within a drug trial; and (ii) by the researchers openly declaring both the randomisation process and the chances of receiving placebo. In the single blind placebo "run-in" or "washout", neither of these conditions is met. This paper considers three possible defences of the practice of using single blind placebo "run-ins" or "washouts" and finds them all to fail; the practice appears ethically unjustified.

Comment in

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center