In Fritz Allhoff & Sandra L. Borden (eds.), Ethics and Error in Medicine (2019)

Authors
Devora Shapiro
Southern Oregon University
Abstract
In this chapter I explicate and evaluate the concept of medical error. Unlike standard philosophical approaches to analyzing medical phenom- ena in the abstract, I instead address medical error specifi cally within the context of an embodied social world. I illustrate how, as a deeply contex- tual concept, medical error is inextricably tied to the social conditions— and concrete, powerful interests—of the particulars in which it is found. I begin with an analysis that demonstrates the relational quality of medi- cal error, as a functional, outcome-oriented concept, evaluating the origin and context of the term’s emergence, and connecting it to a similarly contextual concept, “standard of care.” I move on to note the concern- ing implications of medical error identifi cation and measurement when viewed through an intersectional standpoint. To do so, I discuss what intersectional approaches can help reveal about our contemporary social world of medicine and public health. Intersectional approaches, as I will explain, focus on how intersections of social identity can unmask social structures that negatively impact groups and individuals. It appears, as I will suggest, that disparities in social goods (e.g., social standing, edu- cation, wealth) complicate our identification of medical error, itself, and compound concerns of equity and access to medical goods for those who have diminished expectations for health.
Keywords philosophy of medicine  medical ethics  intersectionality and medicine  feminist philosophy  feminist epistemology  philosophy of science  medical error  healthcare ethics
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