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19.05.2015 | Ausgabe 3/2017

Health Care Analysis 3/2017

Trust and Its Role in the Medical Encounter

Health Care Analysis > Ausgabe 3/2017
Stephen Holland, David Stocks


This paper addresses two research questions. The first is theoretical: What is trust? In the first half of this paper we present a distinctive tripartite analysis. We describe three attitudes, here called reliance, specific trust and general trust, each of which is characterised and illustrated. We argue that these attitudes are related, but not reducible, to one another. We suggest that the current impasse in the analysis of trust is in part due to the fact that some writers allude to these distinctions, but unclearly so, whilst others elide them altogether. The second research question focuses on doctor–patient interaction. Trust is often said to be central in medical encounters but this strikes us as too vague. The success of doctor–patient relations in part depends on adopting the most appropriate of the three attitudes we delineate. We argue that reliance is the appropriate attitude for most medical encounters. When circumstances do require trust, the distinction between specific trust and general trust is crucial. We describe medical encounters requiring specific trust. General trust is less often required in medicine; but it is appropriate in some cases and, when called for, it is called for strongly.

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