Damien Finniss, MD

Watch an excerpt from Dr Damien Finniss’s episode in the Conversation Series

Associate Professor

University of Sydney Pain Management Research Institute, Royal North Shore Hospital

School of Rehabilitation Sciences, Griffith University

At best placebo used to be thought of as a vague unexplained medical phenomena.
At worst it was thought of as medical trickery.

But thanks to the pioneering research of people like Dr. Damien Finniss, modern research is giving us a greater understanding of the body’s own mechanism to heal itself.

Dr. Finniss is a leading expert in the clinical applications of placebo. He is part of a group of international researchers at the frontier of placebo research, proving that the response is far more complex than sugar pills and deception. For example, researchers have been able to show that morphine is almost half as effective when patients don’t know they received it. In other words, the effect of a drug is the combination of the pharmacology of the drug and the effect of your brain knowing that you’re having the drug and the therapeutic ritual of the drug administration.

“Belief is critical because belief has the ability to trigger part of the overall healing response. In simple terms, belief is part of why we get better. It’s not the complete answer, but it’s one part of any medical treatment, which is important.”

As the lead author of research published in The Lancet, Dr. Finniss sparked international debate by showing there are actually two main kinds of placebo effect. There are the benefits patients receive by taking a pill they believe will help and there’s a white-coat effect – which showed that simply visiting a doctor can make a person feel better.

Dr. Finniss is a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney Pain Management Research Institute at Royal North Shore Hospital and Chair of the International Association for the Study of Pain Special Interest Group on Placebo.

Additional Links

Sydney University’s Pain Management Research Institute

International Association for the Study of Pain Special Interest Group on Placebo


Sign up to The Connection newsletter and stay in the loop.