The Dangers of Getting “Diagnosed”


In Somatosphere, Owen Whooley discusses Anne Marie Jutel’s 2011 book, Putting a Name to It: Diagnosis in Contemporary Society. “When we treat diagnosis as simply a medical issue, we mask the tremendous social power involved in putting a name to human suffering,” Whooley writes.

“Diagnosis encompasses two related, but distinct aspects,” Whooley continues. “First, we can think of diagnosis as a label, by which we classify, categorize and identify symptoms, ailments, and distresses. The label itself has power to organize experiences, determine future courses of action, open access to needed resources, and provide identities around which to mobilize politically. But we can also address diagnosis as an act, an interpretive process that unfolds in the particular interaction of the doctor/patient. Here patient testimony is focused and narrowed by the imperative to “think” through personal accounts of distress in a particular way. Meaning is imposed on disparate information in an interaction characterized by power inequality.”

Annemarie Jutel’s Putting a Name to It: Diagnosis in Contemporary Society (Somatosphere, January 28, 2015)