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What about hypnosis, Doctor?
  1. Mark Edwards
  1. Institute of Molecular and Clinical Sciences, St George's University of London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Mark Edwards, Institute of Molecular and Clinical Sciences, St George's University of London, London SW17 0RE, UK; medwards{at}

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‘What about hypnosis Doctor, do you think that might help?’ Picture the clinical encounter within which this question has arisen, and I predict the following. First, you have reached a point where you, as a health professional, feel that you have nothing else to offer the patient in front of you. And second, the word ‘hypnosis’ could have been replaced by any of the following: osteopathy, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, reflexology, cannabis oil, without changing your answer: ‘Well, some people find it helpful, but there’s not really any evidence one way or the other…’.

This sort of encounter often triggers an uncomfortable feeling too. A feeling of stepping outside the (apparent) safety of defensible mainstream medical practice into the Wild West of alternative, or if we are being polite, complementary, healthcare. Some of this discomfort arises from seeing unscrupulous practitioners taking advantage of patients by selling nonsensical or even dangerous treatments or tests. But some also arises from the recognition that the people who ask this …

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  • Contributors ME drafted and finalised this work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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