Multicultural Medicine and the Politics of Recognition

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 36 (4):410-423 (2011)
Abstract
Health care services increasingly face patient populations with high levels of ethnic and cultural diversity. Cultures are associated with distinctive ways of life; concepts of personhood; value systems; and visions of the good that affect illness experience, help seeking, and clinical decision-making. Cultural differences may impede access to health care, accurate diagnosis, and effective treatment. The clinical encounter, therefore, must recognize relevant cultural differences, negotiate common ground in terms of problem definition and potential solutions, accommodate differences that are associated with good clinical outcomes, and manage irresolvable differences. Clinical attention to and respect for cultural difference (a) can provide experiences of recognition that increase trust in and commitment to the institutions of the larger society, (b) can help sustain a cultural community through recognition of its distinct language, knowledge, values, and healing practices, and (c) to the extent that it is institutionalized, can contribute to building a pluralistic civil society
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