Complaining about Medicine, c.1700-2000

Arts and Law
Friday 2nd (09:00) - Saturday 3rd November 2012 (16:30)
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Workshop Leader: Dr Jonathan Reinarz

At a time when complaining about medicine is revealing shortcomings and shaping health care, this workshop aims to bring together local, national and international scholars working in the modern and contemporary history of medicine in ethics, law, philosophy, politics, policy, biography and medicine to explore how complaint cultures have been formed and have influenced medicine. Additionally, this event is intended to stimulate discussions about how the past can inform current and future conflict resolution and best practice. In order to do this, the main organizer and Director of the University’s History of Medicine Unit, Jonathan Reinarz, hopes to include a variety of voices, from different areas of the medical humanities, social sciences and medicine, from early-career and experienced scholars, theorists and practitioners, and services users and clinicians. The event will facilitate knowledge exchange and promote networks for future discourse across disciplines; in the first instance, it will generate an edited collection delivering a greater reach for the findings, provoking wider thinking about ways of communicating complaint, rights and change in the medical arena.

The University currently has a wealth of staff working in relative isolation but engaging with social aspects of health, in historical, ethical, policy-oriented or medical humanities approaches. This IAS workshop will bring together these dispersed academics at an initial two-day workshop with the aim of generating a clearly defined, multi-disciplinary group based around the working title, ‘Social Studies of Medicine’. This workshop is designed to assemble University-wide expertise to discuss a broad, timely and under-theorized theme in medicine: the complaint. This will be the first of several events and initiatives to be organized by this new interdisciplinary research group.

Interest has been expressed from a number of scholars in different colleges, including Professor Jean McHale, Medical Law; Professor Heather Widdows, Philosophy; Professor Jon Glasby, Health Care Management; Professor Angus Dawson, Ethics; Drs James Mussell and Clare Barker, English; Drs Sadiah Qureshi and Hera Cook, History; Dr Leonard Smith, History of Medicine; Dr June Jones, Ethics; and Nicola Gale, Primary Care. Invited speakers reflect the history of psychiatry, one of the most contentious areas of health care (Professor Andrew Scull, San Diego), advocacy and the emergence of patient consumer groups (Dr Alex Mold, LSHTM – Birmingham alumnus), and the formation and change of current welfare and public services (Professor John Clarke, Open University). The aim is to create a 50:50 balance between external and internal speakers, though some external speakers are based with our strategic partners at the universities of Nottingham and Leicester, including Professors Steven King and Paul Lazarus and Dr Elizabeth Hurren. Further dialogue will be encouraged by an evening reception and meal.

Suggested topics for papers:

  • Grievances between medical practitioners
  • Criticism of medical innovation and pioneers, new techniques, syndromes or disease classifications
  • Conflict between herbal/complementary and modernising/mainstream/Western medicine
  • Objections to legislation and policy; its absence, drafting, application and workability
  • Complaints about public health conception and measures
  • Tensions within the mixed economy of health care
  • Whistleblowers and trade union intervention
  • Protests from, or on behalf of, patients, service users, their families and/or advocates
  • The impact of professionalisation and the legal profession on medical and ethical standards
  • Complaint resolution in closed institutional/organisational settings
  • Complaints as agents of change
  • Conciliation practices in the public sphere or individual communities and institutions
  • Apologies, official and informal, and their reception

Academic Organising Committee

  • Dr Jonathan Reinarz, Director, The History of Medicine Unit, MDS
  • Dr Rebecca Wynter, Department of History, CAL and History of Medicine Unit, MDS
  • Professor Jean McHale, Centre for Health Law, Science and Policy, CAL
  • Mr Stuart Wildman, Nursing and Physiotherapy, Health and Population Sciences, MDS
  • Dr Nicola Gale, Primary Care, Health and Population Sciences, MDS