Mistrust in practice

An ethnography of suspicion in general medical practice in the aftermath of COVID-19 

Project Abstract
Research Questions
About the Project

Wallpainting on Covid 19
Photo: Claudio Furlan – LaPresse, 21 July 2020 Milan (Italy). “News Murales” at via Palizzi, Quarto Oggiaro. Graffiti by the artist Cosimo Cheone and dedicated to the healthcare staff of the “Sacco” hospital in Milan.

Project Abstract

Trust in healthcare authorities in many parts of the world is in serious crisis. Reasons for this crisis range from the skyrocketing costs of healthcare; a growing reliance on expensive medical technology; and the pervasiveness of for-profit healthcare. COVID-19 has made an already alarming situation worse, and responses to the pandemic have highlighted a widespread mistrust that many people feel in relation to healthcare advice and healthcare providers, and in relation to the state more generally.

This project will study that mistrust in a specific context, namely Italy, a country hard-hit by the pandemic, even as its population is experiencing the consequences of a neglected and disintegrating National Health System. Ethnographic in design and implementation, research will document the dynamics of mistrust in situated healthcare interactions that unfold between patients and general practice doctors (GPs) in Italy in the aftermath of COVID-19.

The study will highlight mistrust as not just the absence or lack of trust, but as an interactional and structural resource and a force in its own right. In so doing, the project will contribute to debates about the “crisis of trust” in the healthcare sector. It will complicate understandings of mistrust and investigate numerous trajectories of mistrust. This study will provide timely information and analysis that will help us understand the complexity of mistrust in times of health crises

Research Questions

  1. How does mistrust unfold among patients and doctors in general practice and what forms does it take? How does it correlate with gender, ethnicity, race or class?
  2. What are GP’s and patients’ understandings of mistrust respectively?
  3. What are the practical effects of mistrust amid care and what do they produce?
  4. How does manifestations of mistrust – suspicion and double agendas – impact on the way healthcare is delivered, and impact on the possibility of building relationships based on trust?

About the Project





Last modified: 2022-03-24