Welcome to my blog...
Healthcare Hubris is a blog inspired by critical social sciences and critical theory, 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 and professional experience.
Hubris is a term used to describe 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, health insurance industry and mainstream media discourse around health. As a patient, and previously as a clinician, 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.
As will be emphasised in many of the posts on this site, hubris as it manifests in the field of healthcare practice, policy and research, combined with the social power of the individuals and institutions associated with such, has in some instances resulted in egregious and lasting physical, psychological, social and occupational harms to patients. In some cases, the harm is systematic and institutional. Many of these patients are chronically ill and disabled people, and many have been labelled with what is often referred to in healthcare as ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ (MUS).
MUS have become a prime target of certain healthcare professionals, researchers and policy-makers who, facilitated by hubris, are creating, reinforcing and/or unquestionably accepting a narrative that only serves the political, financial and professional 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 many of the blogs on this site will demonstrate, healthcare hubris frequently manifests as medical gaslighting, psychologisation, systematic dismissal of patient concerns and victim-blaming.
All manner of fairy tales are created to deflate the credibility of patients with MUS; these tales will be addressed within the blogs on this site and we will see that, as with most fairy tales, there is little to no empirical substantiation. 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’.
Much of the above narrative has its roots in the (bio)psychosocial hegemony that has arisen within the field of healthcare and social research, policy and provision, alongside the underpinning political and economic agendas of successive governments. Indeed, MUS is arguably the best (or rather worst) example of where science and politics become thoroughly conflated. Many of the forthcoming posts on this site aim to address this conflation.
For the time being, I will post anonymously; ‘Nemesis’ was the first name that came to mind within the context of healthcare hubris. Before anybody points out that naming my blog self after a Greek goddess is surely an example of hubris, I use the term Nemesis broadly and metaphorically to represent a voice which draws attention to the dangerous and destructive form of hubris that exists in the healthcare (and broader social) arena. I draw mainly from social sciences research, critical theory, from my own experience as a patient and clinician, and from the (mis-)information promulgated by mainstream media, government, the health service, and other sources of dominant social discourse. I do not use the term Nemesis within the context of wreaking vengeance on others, no matter what abuses certain individuals and institutions have committed in this sphere.
In a sense, Nemesis might be understood as the collective voice of chronically ill and disabled people who, along with able-bodied allies, hold up a mirror to such hubris and the harms it engenders. My voice is simply one of many within this collective.