Academic Medicine

Skip Navigation LinksHome > January 2012 - Volume 87 - Issue 1 > What “Patient-Centered Care” Requires in Serious Cultural Co...
Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31823ac84b
Patient-Centered Care

What “Patient-Centered Care” Requires in Serious Cultural Conflict

Fiester, Autumn PhD

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The medical community has hailed the recent movement to provide patient-centered care as a progressive step forward in meeting the needs of the very diverse patient population of the United States. Stakeholders in all arenas of U.S. medicine—professional organizations, public advocacy groups, hospital administration, medical school leadership, insurance carriers, and nursing—have embraced the focus on patient-centered care. But, although the community universally endorses the ideal of patient-centered care, the ethical obligations it entails have only just begun to be explored. One of the most difficult circumstances in which to provide patient-centered care is when there is a deep cultural conflict—that is, when the values and priorities of the patient and his or her family are in direct opposition to those of the clinical team. Given the mandate to provide care that is “culturally and linguistically appropriate,” the author asks what obligations providers have to meet patient demands when doing so is inconvenient, challenging, or, at the extreme, offensive and contrary to clinical values. The author examines the tension that occurs when culturally sensitive patient-centered care disrupts the workflow of the service, requires acknowledging antithetical, unsupportable values, or entails discriminatory or ad hominem practices that constitute a personal insult or affront to the provider. The strategy the author has invoked for this analysis is to search for common values that might provide a bridge between patients and providers who are in deep cultural conflict.

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges


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