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Use of placebo surgery in surgical research

Last updated on 22 Feb 2016

A discussion paper entitled ‘When should placebo surgery as a control in clinical trials be carried out?’ has been published by contributors to a workshop held jointly by the Health Research Authority and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in May 2015. The workshop brought together surgeons, patient representatives, regulators and research ethics committees to discuss issues surrounding the use of placebo surgery.

The paper presents a number of research scenarios along with the associated ethical considerations and highlights existing guidance on the use of placebo controls in surgical research. The authors conclude that placebo interventions should be used more often to control surgical studies, as this will often produce the best research evidence.

The full paper is published in the Royal College of Surgeons bulletin. The Royal College of Surgeons also provided a position statement on this piece of work.

Please note: This discussion paper is a consequence of the workshop jointly held by the HRA and Nuffield Council on Bioethics, however it does not represent the opinion of the HRA, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics or the employers of participants at the workshop.

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