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Discussing patients’ drinking and eating habits in medical and homeopathic consultations

Pirjo Lindfors / Liisa Raevaara

Citation Information: Communication & Medicine. Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 137–149, ISSN (Print) 1612-1783, DOI: 10.1515/come.2005.2.2.137, October 2005

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We explore the variety of practices professionals and patients use whilst discussing patients’ eating and drinking habits in general practice and in homeopathic consultations. Our aim is to show how the interaction is shaped, on the one hand, by the professionals’ theories and goals and, on the other hand, by the participants’ orientations to other contextual features. In these two fields of medicine the discussions on the patients’ lifestyle have a different role in the healing process: in general practice, drinking is considered a possible health risk, but in homeopathy, information concerning patients’ eating and drinking habits is needed for defining the patients’ idiosyncratic characteristics. This difference is indicated in the ways in which the professionals deliver their questions about patients’ lifestyles and in the ways in which the patients design their responses and the discussion develops. However, the practices used by the participants also reflect their orientation to the institution-related tasks, such as maintaining professional neutrality and being a good patient, as well as to the wider cultural norms and discourses concerning socially appropriate behavior outside the institution. We also discuss the extent to which these different orientations are consistent or inconsistent with the professionals’ theories and goals.

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