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Accepted Paper:

Compensating Suffering in Court: Dignity and Health Insurance in Brazil  
Erik Bähre (Universiteit Leiden)

Paper short abstract:

When Brazilians take health insurance companies to court for not authorizing treatments, judges mostly rule that insurance companies have to pay for inflicting moral damage. How are dignity and suffering valued and what does this process reveal about the moralities of private and public healthcare?

Paper long abstract:

When clients take health insurance companies to court for not authorizing treatments or for fraud, they almost always argue that the company violated the client’s human dignity. The judge almost always agrees and rules that the company has to compensate the suffering, loss of human dignity, and moral damage that it has caused. At the same time, a request for moral damage payments is absent from court cases against Brazil's publicly funded health care system (SUS). This implies that suffering means something different when it is caused by a healthcare company then when it is caused by public healthcare institutions. How is this distinction between suffering at the hands of the market and at the hands of the state established? In order to understand this I will examine how the narratives of suffering of patients and their family members take shape within the legal contexts of cases against insurance companies and the state. This shows that healthcare markets empower consumers with human dignity that has both moral ánd monetary value and that lie at the heart of present-day ideological and political struggles in Brazil.

Panel Heal13b
Solidarity, responsibility and care: ethnographic explorations of health insurance II
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -