Written by Oh Sher Li

Edited by Ng Hui Lian

On 21 January 2017, we held our first event of the year – our Welcome Tea. This was also the first event organised by our pioneer batch of exco. Activities planned for the day included icebreakers, a debate and an introduction of our plans for the year. The icebreakers enabled the participants to familiarise themselves with one another, which set the stage for the intense debate session – an opportunity for everyone to experience the Research, Present, Debate structure that will be implemented for the interest group’s future seminars.

The debate of the day was centred around the question: “Is the use of placebos justified?” Participants brought up many strong points both for and against placebos. From analysing the definition of a placebo to considering medical ethics, each side explored the significance of placebos in science and medicine, but also emphasised the importance of compassion and humanity in both treatment and research.

One of the arguments that I found memorable was that of the impact on families of those who had signed up as research subjects in the hope of receiving viable treatment, but who had received placebos instead. In such situations, are there alternatives to giving people “false hope”, perhaps by using older forms of drugs instead of placebos as a control? Nevertheless, the historical significance of placebos in medicine and scientific research can hardly be disputed.

Although the debate seemed heated with participants from each stand enthusiastically putting forth their points of argument, it ended with all participants on good terms, and some of us even had lunch together after the event! On behalf of the exco, I would like to thank everyone for coming down on a Saturday morning especially for this event, and for participating with such vigour, as your enthusiasm was what truly made this event a success.

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One of the participants, Kimberly, explaining her team’s points

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