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Keywords:

  • sham surgery;
  • research ethics;
  • Parkinson's Disease;
  • placebo;
  • neurosurgery

ABSTRACT

Despite intense academic debate in the recent past over the use of ‘sham surgery’ control groups in research, there has been a recent resurgence in their use in the field of neurodegenerative disease. Yet the primacy of ethical arguments in favour of sham surgery controls is not yet established. Preliminary empirical research shows an asymmetry between the views of neurosurgical researchers and patients on the subject, while different ethical guidelines and regulations support conflicting interpretations. Research ethics committees faced with a proposal involving sham surgery should be aware of its ethical complexities. An overview of recent and current placebo-controlled surgical trials in the field of Parkinson's Disease is provided here, followed by an analysis of the key ethical issues which such trials raise.