Futile Treatment in Hospital: Doctors’ Intergroup Language

Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Vol. 34(6), Pp. 657-671, 2015

27 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2016

See all articles by Cindy Gallois

Cindy Gallois

University of Queensland

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Ben White

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Sarah Winch

University of Queensland

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine

Nicholas Graves

Queensland University of Technology

Nicole Shepherd

Queensland University of Technology

Eliana Close

Queensland University of Technology

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Treatment that will not provide significant net benefit at the end of a person’s life (called futile treatment) is considered by many people to represent a major problem in the health sector, as it can waste resources and raise significant ethical issues. Medical treatment at the end of life involves a complex negotiation that implicates intergroup communication between health professionals, patients, and families, as well as between groups of health professionals. This study, framed by intergroup language theory, analyzed data from a larger project on futile treatment, in order to examine the intergroup language associated with futile treatment. Hospital doctors (N = 96) were interviewed about their understanding of treatment given to adult patients at the end of life that they considered futile. We conducted a discourse analysis on doctors’ descriptions of futile treatment provided by themselves and their in-group and out-group colleagues. Results pointed to an intergroup context, with patients, families, and colleagues as out-groups. In their descriptions, doctors justified their own decisions using the language of logic, ethics, and respect. Patients and families, however, were characterized in terms of wishing and wanting, as were outgroup colleagues. In addition, out-group doctors were described in strongly negative intergroup language.

Keywords: Intergroup Health Communication, Linguistic Intergroup Bias, End of Life Decision-Making, Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment, Futility

Suggested Citation

Gallois, Cindy and Willmott, Lindy and White, Ben and Winch, Sarah and Parker, Malcolm and Graves, Nicholas and Shepherd, Nicole and Close, Eliana, Futile Treatment in Hospital: Doctors’ Intergroup Language (2015). Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Vol. 34(6), Pp. 657-671, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2802405

Cindy Gallois

University of Queensland ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/willmott/

Ben White (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/whiteb/

Sarah Winch

University of Queensland ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine ( email )

St Lucia
Queensland 4072
Australia

Nicholas Graves

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Nicole Shepherd

Queensland University of Technology

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Eliana Close

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
20
Abstract Views
229
PlumX Metrics