Confronting Diminished Epistemic Privilege and Epistemic Injustice in Pregnancy by Challenging a “Panoptics of the Womb”

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 40 (1):44-68 (2015)
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This paper demonstrates how the problematic kinds of epistemic power that physicians have can diminish the epistemic privilege that pregnant women have over their bodies and can put them in a state of epistemic powerlessness. This result, I argue, constitutes an epistemic injustice for many pregnant women. A reconsideration of how we understand and care for pregnant women and of the physician–patient relationship can provide us with a valuable context and starting point for helping to alleviate the knowledge/power problems that are symptomatic of the current system and structure of medicine. I suggest that we can begin to confront this kind of injustice if medicine adopts a more phenomenological understanding of bodies and if physicians and patients—in this case, pregnant women—become what I call “epistemic peers.”



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Lauren Freeman
University of Louisville