Welcome to my blog...
Healthcare Hubris is a blog inspired by critical social sciences, humanities, critical theory and activism, focusing on health and healthcare equity, particularly in the field of 'medically unexplained symptoms'. It also seeks to offer chronic illness and disability advocacy through sharing of personal experience.
Hubris, an epistemic vice, describes excessive and foolish over-confidence (arrogance) or dangerous pride in one’s own abilities, knowledge base or assumed moral and intellectual grounding of one’s actions. Hubris is sometimes associated with the story of Nemesis, a goddess in Greek mythology who would exact divine retribution on mortals who were deemed guilty of hubris through believing themselves to be equal or superior to the gods. An example from Christian teaching is the archetypal fall from grace of Lucifer, who was cast out of heaven for excessive pride and abusing his privileged position in an attempt to gain power over God.
Hubris can be observed in all social and societal domains, and healthcare is no exception. I use the term ‘healthcare’ broadly to encompass the healthcare system itself, associated health agencies, the scientific community, government departments, disability insurance industry and mainstream media discourse around health. As a patient, previously as a therapist, and as a lifelong 'outsider', I have encountered numerous instances of hubris within healthcare, and have also come across more than a few individuals who might be described as having a God-Complex. Whilst there are plenty of other epistemic vices and defensive strategies at play in clinical encounters and social exchanges pertaining to health and healthcare, hubris sadly stands out (in my experience) as the prominent one - hence the name of this blog.
Through this blogsite, I hope to demonstrate that hubris and other epistemic vices within the healthcare arena, together with the social capital of individuals and institutions associated with such, has in many instances resulted in lasting physical, psychological, social and occupational harms to patients. In some cases, the harm is systematic and may approximate institutionalised abuse. Most of the patients affected are chronically ill and disabled people, and many have been labelled with what is often referred to in healthcare as ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ (MUS). I also hope to demonstrate that these harms are largely fuelled by the political, financial, professional and ideological interests of individuals and structures who claim to acting in the best interests of disabled people.
MUS have become a prime target of certain socially powerful actors within the health and welfare sectors who are implicated in the construction and reinforcement of a narrative that only serves the interests of those who promote it. In short, this narrative aims to frame MUS as psychological, psychosocial or psychosomatic in origin or (notably when patients do not accept these attributions) as an artefact of a dysfunctional or morally questionable character. As I hope some of the blogs on this site will evidence, epistemic vices and pursuit of self-interest frequently manifest as medical gaslighting, psychologisation, systematic dismissal of patient concerns and victim-blaming.
All manner of fairy tales are created that marginalise, stigmatise and deflate the credibility of patients with MUS; like most fairy tales there is little in the way of empirical substantiation, but the tales told appeal to a collective psyche that is permeated with ableism and neoliberal myths. Ironies and blind-spots abound within the field of MUS (and not on the side of patients); perhaps the biggest irony is that some patients with MUS report never being investigated biomedically beyond routine bloodwork. Medically unexplained symptoms might therefore be more accurately called ‘medically under-investigated symptoms’.
Dominant discourse in the realm of MUS is associated with a form of (bio)psychosocial hegemony that has arisen within the field of healthcare and social research, policy and provision. This hegemony can be further located within the biopolitical ideology of neoliberalism and associated state policies (within the UK and beyond) of retrenchment across welfare and health sectors, alongside the creeping neoliberalisation of mainstream structures, institutions, and the psychosocial imaginary. Indeed, MUS is arguably the best (or rather worst) example of where science, politics and collective psycho-pathologies of society become thoroughly conflated. Many of the forthcoming posts on this site aim to address this conflation.
Finally, through sharing my personal experience and applying a variety theoretical and conceptual frameworks, I seek to make sense of - and search for ways to resist - forms of marginalisation and oppression to which we as disabled and chronically ill people are frequently subjected, and which are the frequent target of collective denial, gaslighting and disregard. I hope that this site may contribute a tiny drop in the ocean of the collective struggle against socio-structural and epistemic injustices that chronically ill and disabled people have to negotiate to survive.
I would also be interested in hosting blogposts written by other marginalised chronically ill and disabled people - this can be anonymous or with full acknowledgement and credit. Please feel free to contact me if this appeals to you. I can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org