New paper by Supriya Subramani: The Rhetoric of the ‘Passive Patient’ in Indian Medical Negligence Cases

Supriya Subramani, Postdoctoral Fellow (ESKAS Scholar) at the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine, just published a new paper in Asian Bioethics Review on the rhetoric of the "passive patient" in Indian medical negligence cases. This paper was also awarded ABR Young Scholar Award.

In this paper, I examine the rhetoric employed by court judgements, with a particular emphasis on the narrative construct of the ‘passive patient’. This construction advances and reinforces paternalistic values, which have scant regard for the patients’ preferences, values, or choices within the legal context. Further, I critique the rhetoric employed and argue that the use of this rhetoric is the basis for a precedent that limits the understanding and respect of patients. Through this paper, I present the contemporary use of the ‘passive patient’ construct in the context of the Indian legal system and describe how such constructions have become a source of normative justification for legal reasoning that jeopardizes the patient’s agency. I argue for the primacy of ‘respect for persons’ within Indian law and the need to treat each patient as a person who has agency, preferences, and values during clinical interactions. I conclude by suggesting that laws that adopt narratives that acknowledging the significance of patient engagement and the relevance of effective communication during clinical encounters would help cultivate a culture of patient-centred care, by moving beyond the rhetoric of ‘passive patient’ and the ‘health/choice’ dichotomy.

Respect Agency Law India Patient-centred care Consent

Giovanni Spitale