One medical phenomenon that provides us with a tantalizing glimpse of the control the mind has over the body is the placebo effect. A placebo is any medical treatment that has no specific action on the body, but is given either to humor a patient, or as a control in a double-blind experiment, that is, a study in which one group of individuals is given a real treatment and another group is given a fake treatment. In such experiments neither the researchers nor the individuals being tested know which group they are in so that the effects of the real treatment can be assessed more accurately. Sugar pills are often used as placebos in drug studies. So is saline solution (distilled water with salt in it), although placebos need not always be drugs.
Even surgery has been used as a placebo. In the 1950s, angina pectoris, recurrent pain in the chest and left arm due to decreased blood flow to the heart, was commonly treated with surgery. Then some resourceful doctors decided to conduct an experiment. Rather than perform the customary surgery, which involved tying off the mammary artery, they cut patients open and then simply sewed them back up again. The patients who received the sham surgery reported just as much relief as the patients who had the full surgery.
One factor that can affect the effectiveness of a placebo is the method in which it is given. Injections are generally perceived as more potent than pills, and hence giving a placebo in an injection can enhance its effectiveness. Another factor is the attitude the doctor conveys when he prescribes the placebo.
Tumors that Melt Like Snowballs on a Hot Stove
No incident better illustrates this than a now famous case reported by psychologist Bruno Klopfer. Klopfer was treating a man named Wright who had advanced cancer of the lymph nodes. All standard treatments had been exhausted, and Wright appeared to have little time left. His neck, armpits, chest, abdomen, and groin were filled with tumors the size of oranges, and his spleen and liver were so enlarged that two quarts of milky fluid had to be drained out of his chest every day.
But Wright did not want to die. He had heard about an exciting new drug called Krebiozen, and he begged his doctor to let him try it. At first his doctor refused because the drug was only being tried on people with a life expectancy of at least three months. But Wright was unrelenting to his entreaties, his doctor finally gave in. He gave Wright an injection of Krebiozen on Friday, but in his heart of hearts he did not expect Wright to last the weekend. Then the doctor went home.
To his surprise, on the following Monday, he found Wright out of bed and walking around. Klopfer reported that his tumors had "melted like snowballs on a hot stove" and were half their original size. This was a far more rapid decrease in size than even the strongest X-ray treatments could have accomplished.
Ten days after Wright's first Krebiozen treatment, he left the hospital and was, as far as his doctors could tell, cancer free. When he had entered the hospital, he had needed an oxygen mask to breathe, but when he left he was well enough to fly his own plane at 12,000 feet with no discomfort.
Wright remained well for about two months, but then articles began to appear asserting that Krebiozen actually had no effect on cancer of the lymph nodes. Wright, who has rigidly logical and scientific in his thinking, became very depressed, suffered a relapse, and was readmitted to the hospital. This time his physician decided to try an experiment.
He told Wright that Krebiozen was every bit as effective as it had seemed, but that some of the initial supplies of the drug had deteriorated during shipping. He explained, however, that he had a new highly concentrated version of the drug and could treat Wright with this. Of course, the physician did not have a new version of the drug and intended to inject Wright with plain water. To create the proper atmosphere he even went through an elaborate procedure before injecting Wright with the placebo.
Again the results were dramatic. Tumor masses melted, chest fluid vanished, and Wright was quickly back on his feet and feeling great. He remained symptom-free for another two months, but then the American Medical Association announced that a nationwide study of Krebiozen had found the drug worthless in the treatment of cancer. This time Wright's faith was completely altered. His cancer blossomed anew and he died two days later.
Wright's story is tragic, but it contains a powerful message:When we are fortunate enough to bypass our disbelief and tap the healing forces within us, we can cause tumors to melt away overnight.
From the book "Holographic Universe"
by Michael Talbot
Talbot explains the theory advanced by U. of London physicist David Bohm and Stanford U. neurophysiologist Karl Pribram that despite its apparent tangible reality, the universe is actually a kind of three- dimensional projection and is ultimately no more real than a hologram, a three-dimensional image projected into space. The book has some amazing stories.