Marco Annoni
Research Fellow, National Research Council of Italy

The ethics of deception in placebo and nocebo research
Empirical research on placebo and nocebo effects raises a host of ethical quandaries. On the one hand, investigating placebo and nocebo mechanisms is necessary to better harness such effects in clinical and research settings. On the other hand, these studies often require the use of strategic concealment, partial disclosure or deception in order to preserve their internal validity. Yet, the use of deceptive techniques for scientific purposes is morally problematic because it infringes on the autonomy of trial participants, violates their right to informed consent, and jeopardizes public trust. Against this backdrop, in this talk I will explore the ethics of deceptive and concealing techniques in scientific contexts, identifying under which conditions they can be morally utilized in placebo and nocebo research.


Marco Annoni is a Research Fellow in bioethics at the National Research Council of Italy (CNR). He owns a Ph.D. in “philosophy of science” (University of Pisa) and a Ph.D. in “foundations and ethics of the life sciences” (University of Milan and European School of Molecular Medicine). In 2014 he has been Research Fellow at the Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Center).

His main research interests concern biomedical ethics, with a particular focus on the ethics of the doctor-patient communication, placebo effects, and clinical trials. He works as ethic consultant for the national Research Ethics and Bioethics Advisory Committee and for the Fondazione Umberto Veronesi, a leading Italian institution devoted to the public engagement of science and the promotion of human rights. He is the editor in chief of The Future of Science and Ethics a new, open-access, peer-reviewed, scientific journal dedicated to bioethics, biolaw and biopolitics.