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Medical ethics scholar to give public lecture at UCR

Medical ethics scholar to give public lecture at UCR

(March 8, 2001)

Howard Brody, a Michigan State University doctor and medical ethicist, will speak at the University of California, Riverside this month about how compassionate treatment can boost healing.

Brody, a medical doctor with a Ph.D. in philosphy, is the 2001 Lyceum Lecturer at the Center for Ideas and Society at UCR. His speech titled, "Humanistic Medicine and the Placebo Response," is scheduled from 5-6 p.m., March 21, in room E of the UCR Extension Center, 1200 University Avenue, Riverside. The event is free and open to the public.

The placebo response in Brody's speech describes the healing power of positive elements in the doctor-patient relationship. It takes its name from the longstanding phenomena of a patient's positive physical reaction to the belief that the sugar pill he or she is taking in a clinical trial is really a drug. The following are two examples taken from Brody's April 2000 book "The Placebo Response."
    Brody found that surgery patients heal faster if they have access to pleasant views from their hospital beds, rather than a view of a brick wall.
  • He also found that asthmatic children, when given inhalers with a vanilla aroma, eventually improved in response to the vanilla alone, even when the inhalers contained no drug.

Positive elements in treatment comprise what is known as "humanistic medicine," and are sometimes seen as incompatible with the efficiency-oriented focus of managed care. Brody contends that humanistic medicine can save money in the long run and become a valuable part of managed care.

Brody is currently the Distinguished Faculty Visitor at the Center for Ideas and Society. As such, he has defined the research thrust for the center's resident fellows. Brody's research has examined how humanistic medicine can work effectively in the managed care environment. He has also probed the role that patients' stories play in developing medical histories, treatments, and ethical practices. He is also examining how best to study that role.

Brody has researched and written extensively about medical ethics and primary care, especially the patient-doctor relationship. His most recent books include "The Healer's Power" and "The Placebo Effect." He has been part of the Center for Ethics and Humanities MSU since 1980 and was its director from 1985 to 2000. The center trains medical students and residents on issues of medical ethics.

Brody arrived at The Center for Ideas and Society in January and is expected to remain until the end of June. The center launched its Lyceum Lecturer series in the winter of 1999 to showcase collaborative work that exceeded the bounds of any one college. The lectures are not only addressed to academics but to the community at large, focusing on topical issues in a language accessible to those not working directly in the scholar or lecturer's field.

Past Lyceum Lecturers included Ruth Simmons in 2000, the first African-American president of Smith College. Her talk was titled "Merit Redefined: Access, Equity, and Excellence in Higher Education." In 1999, Arthur Kleinman, a professor of medical anthropology at Harvard University was chosen the Lyceum Lecturer. His talk was titled: "Culture, Illness, and Suffering in the New Era: Moral Issues for Our Times."

For more information about the Lyceum Lecture series or about this year's event, call the Center for Ideas and Society at (909) 787-3987.

Visitor parking at the Extension Center is $3 per vehicle, per day. For more information about parking at the Extension Center, call parking services at (909) 787-4105, extension 1612.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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