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The White Coat

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Next up: a look at the placebo effect from the doctor's perspective. How the medical context alone can be the key into the brain's healing resources. We'll hear the story of Dr. Albert Mason, who found he had super-powers, used them for good, and then lost them forever. Then, we'll witness the real, measurable power of the white coat up-close as Jad follows his dad, Dr. Naji Abumrad, into the examining room. And then we'll visit the moment of transformation from medical student to healer: the white coat ceremony.

Right arm (a) before treatment, (b) eight days fter treatment was begun, showing complete regression of ichthyosi-form skin.

British Medical Journal, August 23, 1952

Legs seen from right (a) before treatment, (b) four weeks after treatment, showing complete regression of ichthyosi-form skin in some areas and improvement in others.

British Medical Journal, August 23, 1952

Skin of right thigh (a) before tretment, (b) one month after treatment was begun.

British Medical Journal, August 23, 1952


Dr. Naji Abumrad and Dr. Albert Mason

Comments [14]

Frank M from Sacramento, CA

Thanks for this show, it was great as always. As a new nursing student, I found the segment on the white coat the most interesting. I've been told by many of my instructors that even though my grades are great, I need to work on my confidence. This show really hit home as to why. I think I'll be able to show much more confidence when working with my patients now, because I know that it's not just something in my head, it's therapeutic for their healing. Thanks so much again.

Apr. 25 2015 05:34 PM
Samantha M.

After hearing that Dr. Mason believed it was him who had lost the "power to heal," I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't him who had lost the power, but that it was the fact that the patients had knowledge of the fact that HYPNOSIS could and would cure this disease. I know that others have made comments that it could be that the patients weren't as trusting, but couldn't it have something to do with our brains and the fact that there were no expectations with the first patient? He didn't tell the boy, "Can I hypnotize you, because I believe this may potentially cure your disease?" No, he simply asked if the boy would mind if he hypnotized him. I think the power is in not knowing and not having expectations...that leaves room for miracles. When you introduce prior studies and surrounding information, the situation loses it's ability to unfold naturally. It wasn't until this information went global, that all of a sudden the hypnosis seemed to not had lost its magic one could say. I would imagine this is why magicians don't like to share how they're able to do certain tricks, because it no longer has the same effect on the audience.

I remember someone once telling me that I shouldn't look too far into places before I visit them. Don't view too many pictures of something you are about to view in person, because subconsciously you search for that same image while you're there at the location in person, and when you're not able to find it, you are in a sense disappointed. Having expectations limits the way that we perceive the natural unfolding world around us, because despite whether we intend to or not, we hold those expectations and they can alter the way we see and experience.

Someone might argue that having this knowledge ahead of time shouldn't effect what happens while you're under hypnosis because you aren't technically awake. I would argue however, that it absolutely does, because your subconscious never goes away. It doesn't matter if you're asleep, awake, or being hypnotized. You have that knowledge, and it doesn't go away.

Apr. 09 2015 03:12 PM
michael from Somerville

It obviously had nothing to do with hypnosis. The problem is that diseases can disappear as suddenly as they start, or perhaps it was some other treatment, or a temporary condition. The fact that he never repeated the success should tell us that in fact nothing happened. He was asking the wrong questions. He should have been asking, 'How can I know that the hypnosis caused the cure?'

Jan. 22 2015 06:28 PM
Gregory Slater

white coat ceremony... sweet jesus... we're still mindless tribal animals... we've had it, let's face it.

Apr. 26 2014 04:43 PM
Rosemary Conte from Matawan, NJ

Congratulations! And thank you, for Sat., Apr. 25's wonderful segment on placebo/hypnosis. You have done a service to listeners who may have been unfamiliar with the amazing power of hypnosis and "their own mind power."

I am an artist/medical hypnotist of 25 years. My files a filled with miracles, depending upon believing clients, including several so-called infertile women who came to me in desperation after several rounds of IVF and tens of thousands of dollars in fees failed to result in their pregnancy.

All the women, except one, became pregnant. Some in one session with me, and some in two sessions. The single woman who did not become pregnant discovered in trance, that she really did not want to be a mother, but had been yielding to family pressure to have a baby. Furthermore, in regression to cause of her fear, it was revealed that HER mother had been a cruel and unloving mother. My client did not want to risk being that kind of mother to a child.

Had she not been so adamantly opposed to being a mother, we could have transformed her fear by using parts therapy, positive psychology, and other more standard therapeutic techniques.

It is my belief, that someday, mind-medicine, AKA hypnosis, will be the standard in the art of healing, which in today's world is overshadowed by toxic treatment by practitioners, many of whom, have toxic attitudes.

Rosemary Conte

Apr. 26 2014 01:22 PM
Candace Clemens from Arlington, MA

Prof. Stanley Milgram did a very famous study about the power of "the white coat." I am very surprised at how few listeners were not aware either of: 1) the approval by the FDA of the Placebo effect and 2) this long-known impact of the power of "attire" associated with authority figures, particularly the White Lab Coat. The Milgram Study proved that otherwise "normal" people volunteering to participate in this "medical experiment" would willingly participate in experiments that, to their knowledge, resulted in torturing a "test patient." (it was all an act, but the volunteers didn't know that.)

Jun. 22 2013 11:08 PM
Kristy from Left Coast

RE: the doctor who lost his confidence after a respected elder physician told him his claim of curing the boy of his skin problem was impossible:

My mother had a heart attack in 1974 and the cardiologist who treated her told her that she had about 10 years to live. (I found out from my sister after she died).

She had a heart attack and died two days past the 10th anniversary of her initial heart attack. (The kind of which is routinely treated in emergency rooms today).

I have long attributed this to the fact that my mother, not having graduated high school, put a lot of trust in people who were more educated than she. In effect, the doctor said she had 10 years, and she did as she was told.

Regarding the warts---I know someone who, as a child, had warts and they disappeared after she gave them to her friend (!) as per her doctor's instruction. Soon her warts were gone and her friend had them!

Jun. 21 2013 11:04 PM
Susan from Fort Lauderdale, Fl

Love, love, love your show. New to WLRN here in South Florida so even though today's show is an older show, found it so captivating. Sat in my car in garage to hear last 10 min. Looking forward to podcasting all the shows. So glad to have found you.

Mar. 17 2012 09:22 PM

Can we get the hypnotist hypnotized and convince him that he can actually heal again? I know it sounds crazy but hey! Worth a shot, right?

Jun. 13 2011 11:19 AM
Dan from Metropolitan Detroit

My first thought on hearing Dr. Mason explain "infantile omnipotence" was that it must have been strong within his 15-year-old patient rather than Dr. Mason. That seemed bolstered by Jad's segment with his father illustrating the high degree of trust some patients have in their doctors. Even if Dr. Mason lost some of his confidence in his ability to bring out the curative powers within his patients, could it also be that subsequent patients were less trusting to begin with? It would interest me to know how many of his later "failures" were children.

May. 30 2009 12:50 PM
Brent from Portland, Oregon

Fantastic and gripping content. Keep up the excellent work !!!

Apr. 19 2009 11:37 PM
Spencer L from Oklahoma City

Your show is amazing! The topics are interesting and thoughtful. I am writing a paper over the placebo effect and am trying to find some more information about Franz Boas and such, but didn't find the link for Boas very helpful. Any idea about where to get some more information about the Shaman story?
Keep it up guys!

Oct. 16 2007 06:05 PM
Radio Lab from WNYC Radio

Depending on where you live, Radio Lab episodes will air on different dates. You can check in with your local station to find programming information. Check again on iTunes, you'll find Placebo is now there!

May. 23 2007 09:34 AM
Michael McDaniel from Portland, Or

I LOVE this show! It is candy for the ears, filled with informational vitamins for the brain. Who knew that the railroads began the tradition of sychronizing time, or that the white coats doctors wear were adopted because you could not see dirt as well on the formerly traditional, black! I am a little confused, though as the third season begins, per this site, on the 18th of May, but It hought it was already in progress--actually I thiught this was only the 2nd season. I would like to see the first season, then on iTunes. And, how come the Plecebo Effect is not yet on itune? Anywya, and in spite of that, this is one of the best things on the air! Please keep it up!


May. 20 2007 01:09 PM

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