Construction of patients' position in Norway's Patients' Rights Act
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Background: Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948, human rights as set out in government documents have gradually changed, with more and more power being transferred to individual. Objectives: The aim of this article is to analyze how the position of the patient in need of care is constructed in Norway's renamed and revised Patients' and Service Users' Rights Act (originally Patients' Rights Act, 1999) and published comments which accompanying this legislation from the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Service. Research design: A constructivist design was used, and Fairclough's critical discourse approach was adopted to analyze the text of the Patients' and Service Users' Rights Act and comments. Findings: The analysis identified three discourses: (a) political discourse, containing ethical discourses about priority and economy, in which patients are constructed as powerless individuals; (b) expert discourse, containing a theme about patients' trust in the healthcare team and its knowledge, in which patients are constructed as helpless individuals lacking knowledge; and (c) patient participation and patient autonomy discourse, containing ethical discourses about decision-making, in which patients are constructed not only as individuals with needs and rights but also as “troublesome.” Conclusion: Dominant paternalistic discourses in the legal text validate the power of medicine, the healthcare system, and heath personnel over the needs, rights, participation, and autonomy of the patient.