Accepted Paper:

When treatment can kill, uncertainty, trust and the influence of the patient/doctor relationship  


Alice Péters (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how, in a context of possibly lethal treatment, the uncertainty about the treatment and the trust in the treatment influences and is influenced by the doctor/patient relationship.

Paper long abstract:

Based on two fieldworks in onco-haematology in hospitals in Belgium and England, I've observed the impact of therapeutic pain (pain and suffering linked to the impact of treatments) on the relationship between doctors, patients and their relatives. In this context of rough treatments, isolation and side effects that can lead to the death of the patient, the question of the uncertainty of the outcome and trust in the treatment and the doctors is central.

When the illness is fatal and the treatment can be lethal, the communication around the prognosis and the side effects of the treatment is crucial to gain the trust of the patient for the treatment. I'll explore how this communication is bound to the doctor/patient relationship and how it's influenced by cultural norms linked to this relationship.

I'll analyse how, in this situation of therapeutic pain, the responsibility of the therapeutic choice is shared between patients and doctors and can lead to what can be called a real team work. The fragile balance between mutual trust and decision sharing will be discussed. Indeed, if a team work is effective, it doesn't imply equality in the distribution of roles. Patients and doctors have in mind an ideal partner in this therapeutic relationship and trusting one another in order to have faith in the outcome of the therapy is probably the hardest but also the most important thing.

Panel W132
Uncertainty and trust in medicines and therapeutic techniques