Accepted Paper:

'I rather prefer that doctors do not pretend as if they are half gods in white': How doctors sharing uncertainty in a Dutch IVF-clinic increases trust  

Author:

Trudie Gerrits (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Based on the findings of an ethnographic study I conducted in a Dutch infertility clinic I will show and argue how couples’ trust in medical doctors seems to be enhanced by doctors’ transparency about possible risks and the limited success rates of IVF and their openness about the uncertainties surrounding this reproductive technology.

Paper long abstract:

Couples indicated for IVF at the Radboud clinic in Nijmegen, the Netherlands (where I conducted an extensive hospital ethnography) are extensively informed about IVF success rates and the possible risks involved. Despite this abundant information, they find it difficult to assess exactly what these risks and rates entail for their own situation. Not surprisingly, the decision to pursue IVF treatment can not be seen as one based purely on a rational assessment of the information on risks and rates. People's individual risk perceptions, the lottery like features of IVF, couples' strong wish for a child, the promising potential of medical technology and trust in the medical staff were - among others - all found to contribute to the fact that most couples are inclined to start and continue IVF treatment, even when they feel that success rates are not really promising and they are scared by some of the potential risks or side-effects. In this paper I focus on the importance of trust in the medical staff in terms of the way couples consider the use of IVF. In particular I will show and argue how couples' trust in medical doctors seems to be enhanced by doctors' transparency about possible risks and the limited success rates and their openness about the uncertainties surrounding IVF. However, I do not claim that sharing uncertainty is necessarily and always appreciated by patients in contemporary biomedicine. Rather, as I suggest in the conclusion, the appreciation of disclosure of uncertainty might be highly context-specific, and is a topic that deserves more scholarly attention.

Panel W132
Uncertainty and trust in medicines and therapeutic techniques