An anthropological comparative analysis of MUS patients' experience of respectively GP consultations and energy healing
Purpose The purpose of the research project was to compare MUS patients’ experience of respectively GP consultation rituals and spiritual healing rituals. Background Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are defined as: physical symptoms for which no adequate physiological basis can be found. Consequently, the reality of patients' subjectively experienced symptoms (illness) is often misbelieved and unrecognized. Because of this non-existence of the disease the GP as well is left in a grey area without tools for treatment. Methods There was conducted 6 months’ fieldwork and qualitative interviews with 20 informants: 10 on GP consultations and 10 on spiritual healing. Results The patients appreciate their GP especially if she moves beyond her biomedical competences. Generally, the informants experience the GP as 'closed', ie. she mainly has her bio-medical skills and symbols to draw on, while a healer is experienced as 'open', i.e. she is not subject to the same limitations and in principle has an endless array of symbols to draw on, for example, symbols concerning the existential and the spiritual. Especially the existential and spiritual dimensions of the illness is something many patients – especially ‘religious sceptics’ - call for. Conclusion Drawing on anthropologist Levi-Strauss’ concepts of ‘ingenieur’ - ‘bricoleur’ and anthropologist Tambiah’s (Lévy-Bruhl’s) concepts of ‘participation’ – ‘causality’ it is argued that from a patient experienced perspective the biomedical scientific paradigm constitutes an obstacle for the GP to offer the MUS patients the best treatment and support. The paper concludes with some reflections on what constitutes ‘the good healer’.
Main Research Area:
4th International In Sickness and In Health Conference, 2011