A colonized general practice? A critical habermasian analysis of how general practitioners experience defensive medicine in their everyday working life

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The aim of this article is to show how Jürgen Habermas' communicative action theory serves as a useful tool in analysing and interpreting empirical data on how Danish general practitioners experience defensive medicine in their everyday working life. Through six qualitative focus group interviews with a total of 28 general practitioners (14 men and 14 women), the general practitioners' understandings of and experiences with defensive medicine were unfolded and discussed. Traditionally, defensive medicine is understood as physicians' deviation from sound medical practice due to fears of liability claims or lawsuits. In this study, however, a broader understanding of defensive medicine emerged as unnecessary medical actions that are more substantiated by feelings of demands and pressures than meaningful clinical behaviour. As a first analytical step, the data are contextualized drawing on the medical sociological literature that has theorized recent changes within primary health care such as regulation, audit, standardization and consumerism. Using Habermas' theorization to further interpret the general practitioners' experiences, we argue that central areas of the general practitioners' clinical everyday work life can be seen as having become subject to the habermasian social and political processes of 'strategic action' and 'colonization'. It is furthermore shown that the general practitioners share an impulse to resist these colonizing processes, hereby pointing to a need for challenging the increasingly defensive medical culture that seems to pervade the organization of general practice today.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Health, Illness and Society
Volume25
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)141-158
ISSN1363-4593
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20. Jun 2019

Keywords

  • Habermas
  • defensive medicine
  • general practice
  • qualitative research
  • system colonization

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