Television documentary in New Zealand and the construction of doctors by lower socio-economic groups
The medical profession remains central to the provision of health care and the treatment of illness within contemporary society. However, the image of doctors and the relationship of the profession with the public is contested. The public persona of doctors has been subjected to re-negotiation in recent years as a result of factors such as health care reforms, the increased autonomy of other health professionals, the rise of the health consumer, and well-publicised cases of medical misadventure. We argue that television viewing is one influential way through which images of medical doctors are socially negotiated. This paper explores the construction of doctors through an analysis of television health documentary coverage and the accounts of lower SES participants in New Zealand. It demonstrates how televised depictions of doctors are integrated into the lifeworlds of viewers. We show that multiple and often contradictory representations of doctors, within both television health coverage and the accounts of our participants, conflate the traditional characterization of the caring professional with more recently established characterizations such as the medical entrepreneur and the bungling quack. The result is a complex and contextually variable image of doctors that embodies tensions surrounding public anxiety over health care reform. Recourse to this more pluralistic image of doctors provides a way for participants to work through the dilemmas posed by reduced access to medical care and the uncertainties of medical treatment, while still maintaining support for universal access to medical care.
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Volume (Year): 57 (2003)
Issue (Month): 1 (July)
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