Futile treatment in hospital: Doctors’ intergroup language

Gallois, Cindy, Willmott, Lindy, White, Ben, Winch, Sarah, Parker, Malcolm, Graves, Nicholas, Shepherd, Nicole, & Close, Eliana (2015) Futile treatment in hospital: Doctors’ intergroup language. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 34(6), pp. 657-671.

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Treatment that will not provide significant net benefit at the end of a person’s life (called futile treatment) is considered by many people to represent a major problem in the health sector, as it can waste resources and raise significant ethical issues. Medical treatment at the end of life involves a complex negotiation that implicates intergroup communication between health professionals, patients, and families, as well as between groups of health professionals. This study, framed by intergroup language theory, analyzed data from a larger project on futile treatment, in order to examine the intergroup language associated with futile treatment. Hospital doctors (N = 96) were interviewed about their understanding of treatment given to adult patients at the end of life that they considered futile. We conducted a discourse analysis on doctors’ descriptions of futile treatment provided by themselves and their in-group and out-group colleagues. Results pointed to an intergroup context, with patients, families, and colleagues as out-groups. In their descriptions, doctors justified their own decisions using the language of logic, ethics, and respect. Patients and families, however, were characterized in terms of wishing and wanting, as were outgroup colleagues. In addition, out-group doctors were described in strongly negative intergroup language.

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ID Code: 84813
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: intergroup health communication, linguistic intergroup bias, end of life decision-making, withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, futility
DOI: 10.1177/0261927X15586430
ISSN: 1552-6526
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > APPLIED ETHICS (220100) > Medical Ethics (220106)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Law
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 The Author(s)
Deposited On: 16 Jun 2015 22:32
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2015 03:04

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