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How companions speak on patients' behalf without undermining their autonomy: Findings from a conversation analytic study of palliative care consultations

Pino, M. & Land, V. ORCID: 0000-0003-4542-6163 (2022). How companions speak on patients' behalf without undermining their autonomy: Findings from a conversation analytic study of palliative care consultations. Sociology of Health & Illness, 44(2), pp. 395-415. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.13427


Companions are individuals who support patients and attend health-care appointments with them. Several studies characterised companions’ participation in broad terms, glossing over the details of how they time and design their actions, and how patients and health-care practitioners (HCPs) respond to them. This article aims to examine these aspects in detail by using conversation analysis, focusing on actions whereby companions speak on patients’ behalf—mentioning delicate aspects of patients’ experience (specifically, by alluding to patients’ thoughts or feelings about dying). Some studies suggested that these actions undermine patients’ autonomy. By contrast, through examination of palliative care consultations in a UK hospice, we found that these interventions are warranted by contextual circumstances: they are either invited by patients or HCPs (through questions or gaze) or volunteered to help with the progression of an activity (e.g. when a patient does not answer an HCP’s question). Additionally, all parties collaborate in constructing these companion interventions as temporary departures from an otherwise prevailing normative orientation to patients’ right to speak for themselves. The study contributes to the sociology of health and illness by characterising how companions contribute to the ways in which participants coordinate their relative rights and responsibilities, and ultimately their relationships, within health-care interactions.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for SHIL (SHIL) This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: companions, conversation analysis, cues, end of life, gaze, hospice, offers, palliative care, questions
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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