Under the carpet : the politics and trauma of patient harm

Willemyns, Amanda Jo-Anne (2010) Under the carpet : the politics and trauma of patient harm. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Few studies have investigated iatrogenic outcomes from the viewpoint of patient experience. To address this anomaly, the broad aim of this research is to explore the lived experience of patient harm. Patient harm is defined as major harm to the patient, either psychosocial or physical in nature, resulting from any aspect of health care. Utilising the method of Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR), in-depth interviews are conducted with twenty-four volunteer research participants who self-report having been severely harmed by an invasive medical procedure. A standardised measure of emotional distress, the Impact of Event Scale (IES), is additionally employed for purposes of triangulation. Thematic analysis of transcript data indicate numerous findings including: (i) difficulties regarding patients‘ prior understanding of risks involved with their medical procedure; (ii) the problematic response of the health system post-procedure; (iii) multiple adverse effects upon life functioning; (iv) limited recourse options for patients; and (v) the approach desired in terms of how patient harm should be systemically handled. In addition, IES results indicate a clinically significant level of distress in the sample as a whole. To discuss findings, a cross-disciplinary approach is adopted that draws upon sociology, medicine, medical anthropology, psychology, philosophy, history, ethics, law, and political theory. Furthermore, an overall explanatory framework is proposed in terms of the master themes of power and trauma. In terms of the theme of power, a postmodernist analysis explores the politics of patient harm, particularly the dynamics surrounding the politics of knowledge (e.g., notions of subjective versus objective knowledge, informed consent, and open disclosure). This analysis suggests that patient care is not the prime function of the health system, which appears more focussed upon serving the interests of those in the upper levels of its hierarchy. In terms of the master theme of trauma, current understandings of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are critiqued, and based on data from this research as well as the international literature, a new model of trauma is proposed. This model is based upon the principle of homeostasis observed in biology, whereby within every cell or organism a state of equilibrium is sought and maintained. The proposed model identifies several bio-psychosocial markers of trauma across its three main phases. These trauma markers include: (i) a profound sense of loss; (ii) a lack of perceived control; (iii) passive trauma processing responses; (iv) an identity crisis; (v) a quest to fully understand the trauma event; (vi) a need for social validation of the traumatic experience; and (vii) posttraumatic adaption with the possibility of positive change. To further explore the master themes of power and trauma, a natural group interview is carried out at a meeting of a patient support group for arachnoiditis. Observations at this meeting and members‘ stories in general support the homeostatic model of trauma, particularly the quest to find answers in the face of distressing experience, as well as the need for social recognition of that experience. In addition, the sociopolitical response to arachnoiditis highlights how public domains of knowledge are largely constructed and controlled by vested interests. Implications of the data overall are discussed in terms of a cultural revolution being needed in health care to position core values around a prime focus upon patients as human beings.

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ID Code: 46266
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Young, Ross & Brough, Mark
Keywords: patient harm, experience, safety, patient‘s perspective, adverse event, iatrogenic, informed consent, open disclosure, traumatic, misuse of power, posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, homeostatic model of trauma, medical error, arachnoiditis, consensual qualitative research, impact of event scale, Foucault, postmodernist, sociopolitical, quest for answers, social validation, patient-centred care, sociology of risk, risk perception, pharmaceutical industry, health care, legal, malpractice, litigation, negligence, social construction of knowledge, subjective, objective, psychosocial outcomes, narrative, medicine, law, history, anthropology, psychology, human rights, ethics, politics, recovery, healing, acknowledgement, recognition
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 29 Sep 2011 07:07
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2011 07:07

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