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Making patients political: Narrating, curating, enacting, and navigating the 'idealised policy patient'

Dimond, Rebecca ORCID:, Stephens, Neil and Herbrand, Cathy 2023. Making patients political: Narrating, curating, enacting, and navigating the 'idealised policy patient'. Social Science & Medicine 338 , 116333. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.116333

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In this article we develop the concept of the ‘idealised policy patient’ to contribute to a better understanding of patient-family activism and the mechanisms through which powerful and persuasive patient narratives are facilitated and mobilised. The context through which we explore the idealised policy patient is the UK debates about the legalisation of mitochondrial donation, which primarily took place between 2011 and 2015. In our example, the idealised policy patient was constructed around a culturally persuasive narrative of patient suffering, where mitochondrial donation was presented as a desirable and ethical solution. We draw on interviews with patient-families and stakeholders, and documentary analysis to identify four dimensions of the idealised policy patient – narrating, curating, enacting and navigating. Narrating describes how the idealised policy patient appears in public and policy spaces, as a culturally available narrative which conveys certain meanings and is designed to invoke an emotional and practical response. Curating identifies the multiple forms of labour and facilitation involved in supporting patient-families in activist activities which strengthen the dominant narrative and its embodiment. Enacting focuses on the work of patient-families themselves in supporting and contributing to the idealised policy patient in a way that enlivens and embodies the specifically curated narrative. Finally, navigating considers how those offering an opposing viewpoint position themselves in relation to the idealised policy patient. To conclude, we argue that medical sociology has often given insufficient scrutiny to how the capacity of patients to leverage their status for political ends is bolstered through alignment with existing powerful groups, particularly in hegemonic campaigns. We encourage future researchers to examine how the idealised policy patient is reproduced and reorientated within different policy contexts.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0277-9536
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 8 December 2023
Date of Acceptance: 11 October 2023
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2023 15:56

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