What Comes After Successful Placebo Surgery?

Placebo surgery?

Yes.  Not just sugar pills but actual fake operations that result in the same positive outcomes as real surgery.

“The patients didn’t know which procedures they got—real surgery or sham surgery.  Both groups had equivalent results.  A year later, approximately 80% of patients in both groups said their knees felt better.”


This was the report from Dr. Teppo Jarvinen, the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation Clinical Professor of Orthopedics and Traumatology at the University of Helsinki, who led a rigorous study of placebo-controlled knee surgery.

The placebo effect also isn’t limited to those who don’t know they’re getting a placebo.  Even when informed that their medicine is made of inert ingredients yet is beneficial, patients still experience positive outcomes.

This all points to how powerful our expectations are!  What we believe in can have a profound physical effect.  You could even call it “mental medicine.”

But surgery?

It’s one thing to take a pill that disappears into the system and expect positive results.  Perhaps it’s even understandable that someone can trust in mysterious benefits of a known placebo.

But surgery is so concrete, so hands on.  In surgery, there’s a definite adjustment.  Someone went in and did something.  How can that be faked?

In the study above, “all received anesthesia and incisions.” For some, the rest was mental.  Just believing that surgery had been done and seeing a confirming incision, was enough to produce lasting physical correction.

Doesn’t that impel the next logical question:  Is it possible for such correction to occur even without fake surgery – completely mentally?

Yes, it can.  From the expectancy that comes through faith.  And I’m not talking about blind faith.

I’m referring to an expectation of good results based on a spiritual understanding, which can bring needed physical change. That’s the kind of understanding I’ve learned to strive for and cultivate in my practice of Christian Science.

Here’s an example of what might be called, “mental surgery.”

“…as I fell, I heard two loud popping sounds coming from my leg….The doctor diagnosed the injury as a severed anterior cruciate ligament, and a torn posterior cruciate ligament….He said I had only two options: one, to have surgery; or two, to undergo several months, if not more, of rehabilitation.  But either way, I would never have full mobility in my leg, and my knee would never be the same or heal properly on its own.

…I was constantly tuning in to God—listening for Him and for the assurance that as His loved and well-constructed idea, I was never for an instant outside of His care or separated from Him.  Within less than a month of the skiing accident, I was fully recovered without any medical assistance.”

Obviously, there’s more going on there than can be fully discussed here.  But this account, and others like it, offer thought-provoking evidence of what’s possible through a purely spiritual approach.

The success of placebo surgery takes us to the cutting edge of mental medicine – pun intended.   I’d say the next level requires no scalpel.

(photo ©Glowimages – model for illustrative purposes only)