Skip to main content

I Can Hardly Credit It: Epistemic Injustice in the Patient-Provider Relationship

Posted: December 1, 2016

Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics Anniversary Lecture

Professor Alison Reiheld, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville,
Professor Alison Reiheld, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville,

Event Details

  • Monday, November 20, 2017
    6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Professor Alison Reiheld, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, on medical ethics and Provider-Patient relationships.

Patients often worry that their health care providers aren't taking them seriously. What they can't always tell is why their claims are not given the credit they are due. Using tools from sociology and philosophy, I analyze what goes wrong in particular kinds of patient-provider encounters for three distinct patient groups: Black patients in pain, women in pain, and fat patients discussing diet and exercise. I argue that these particular patient groups have their testimony discounted unjustly during encounters with health care providers. They don't receive the amount of credibility they should, which harms them both as knowers and in terms of health outcomes. This injustice in the patient-provider relationship is underpinned by willful ignorance, "blindness", and a presumption of innocence on the part of providers who make decisions about the trustworthiness of patient testimony as though they are free from bias. All too often, physicians treating members of stigmatized social groups hear patient testimony but simply cannot credit it. Yet credit it they must; I close by offering recommendations for how individual providers and medical education can seek to reduce epistemic injustice in the patient-provider relationship.

The annual Ethics Lecture sponsored by the Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics at Trent University is a public address by an invited speaker on issues of value theory that engage with the world, and in past years has included presentations on environmental awareness, Olympic competition, mindfulness and meditation.