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Professionals’ involvement of relatives – only good intentions?

Stinne Glasdam (Department of Health Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Jeppe Oute (Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research, Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 11 October 2018

Issue publication date: 16 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore how, and under what conditions, professionals involve relatives in clinical practice.


Two cases were constructed from two studies in Denmark, theoretically inspired by Bourdieu’s concepts of doxa and position and analyzed with focus on the involvement of relatives from the perspective of professionals.


Support to relatives in practice is rarely included in the way that treatment and care are organized in healthcare. Professionals’ views of the involvement of relatives were characterized by the values of neoliberal ideology and medical-professional rationality, in which relatives are not regarded as a subject of care and support in clinical practice. The involvement of relatives aimed to ensure patients’ participation in randomized clinical trial and to help professionals to care for patients when the professionals were not absolutely needed. Professionals were relatively higher positioned in the clinic than relatives were, which allowed professionals to in – and exclude relatives. Neoliberal ideology and medical-professional rationality go hand in hand when it comes to patient treatment, care and the involvement of relatives; it is all about efficiency, treatment optimization and increased social control of the diagnosed patient. These neoliberal, organizational values consolidate doxa of the medical field and the positions that govern the meeting with patients’ relatives – if it takes place at all.


The results put into perspective how the combination of neoliberalism and medical logic work as an organizing principle in contemporary healthcare systems, and challenge a normative, humanistic view on involving patients’ relatives in the medical clinic.



Glasdam, S. and Oute, J. (2019), "Professionals’ involvement of relatives – only good intentions?", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 211-231.



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