Accepted paper:

In the search for cure, the failure of a collaboration


Sylvie Fainzang (INSERM (Cermes3))

Paper short abstract:

The disruption in collaboration between doctors and patients, under the possible influence of other social actors, enables the elaboration of a different conception of cure, which may manifest as ‘self-medicalisation’, where the stakes are sometimes not only therapeutical but also political.

Paper long abstract:

Ideally, collaboration between doctors and patients requires a harmonious perception of illness and treatment from both parties. This harmony is said to provide one of the conditions for recovery. Anthropology has shown in this respect how doctors' and patients' adherence to the same register of interpretation of illness is a prerequisite for patient medical care. However, if the same way of perceiving illness and cure is likely to enable collaboration between patients and health professionals, and if, conversely, collaboration between patients and doctors may lead to a common way of apprehending cure, on the other hand, divergent ways of perceiving the cure of an illness or a symptom may lead to situations where the collaboration is disrupted. I will examine here examples where patients take recourse to doctors but subsequently give up this recourse. We will see that not only may collaboration cease when there is a disagreement on the treatment and the conditions of cure, but also that it is sometimes under the influence of other social actors that the notion of cure is developed. In these conditions, the failure of a collaboration may result in recourse to self-medication and to 'self-medicalisation'. Moreover, while it is seen as a way to compensate for this failure, this recourse may also contain another stake: by socialising one's ailment and the conditions for recovery in another way, the subject sometimes tries to address a concern that is not only therapeutical but also political.

panel P072
Anthropology of cure and recovery: collaboration and chronicity