Centre for Social Science and Global Health

The Ambiguity of Patient-Centred Practices

The Case of a Dutch Fertility Clinic

This paper by Trudy Gerrits examines the manifold effects of patient-centred practices on women andmen undergoing IVF treatment.

When in-vitro fertilization (IVF) was introduced in the 1970s, doctors were criticized for not properly informing prospective users about its possible risks and limited success rates as well as for medicalizing fertility problems. Nowadays, many fertility clinics are seeking to improve their accountability to stakeholders through patient-centred practices. Based on an ethnographic study of a Dutch fertility clinic, outspoken in its aims to provide patient-centred medicine and to empower clients, this paper addresses how patient-centred medicine affects couples’ decision-making to use IVF and related reproductive technologies. The author contends that while patient-centred practices facilitate informed decision-making and support couples emotionally, they may also have unintended disciplining and normalizing effects. The information and support provided, the trust couples have in clinic staff, the ongoing visualization of conception mediated by medical technology – all can be seen as practices that strengthen lay people's ‘medical gaze’ in how they come to view their bodies, fertility problems and possible solutions. These unintended effects are labelled ‘the ambiguity of patient-centeredness’ as they (may) interfere with processes of autonomous decision-making.

Publication Details

Trudy Gerrits (2015): The Ambiguity of Patient-Centred Practices: The Case of a Dutch Fertility Clinic, Anthropology & Medicine, 21:2, 125-135.

Published by  SSGH

8 February 2017