Suspicious Minds: Apportioning and Avoiding Blame for Distrustful Relationships and Deferring Medical Treatment in South Africa


This paper examines elements of mistrust, blame and suspicion among patients and providers in the South African health system which affect practice and policy development. Using stories told by patients and providers in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Bushbuckridge, it examines how suspicion is constructed and how others are blamed for adverse outcomes. This paper sets a conceptual framework which examines the attribution of blame in contemporary social and political life, the narratives of 45 patients receiving HIV/AIDS, TB or maternal delivery services and those of 63 providers dealing with similar treatments and arranged across a series of facilities, clinics, hospitals and mobile vans were constructed and shared with participants. These narratives form the basis of the results sections which examines suspicions among both providers and patients with the former seeing the latter as having no respect and regard and providing poor care and access to grants. Providers saw themselves as highly stressed but diligent with service challenges being blamed on patient ignorance, unreasonable demands and failure to follow medical advice. The paper ends with a discussion on how to limit mistrust and reduce suspicion through more cooperative provider-patient relations and what this kind of evidence means for decision-makers.

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Eyles, J. , Harris, B. , Fried, J. , Govender, V. and Penn-Kekana, L. (2015) Suspicious Minds: Apportioning and Avoiding Blame for Distrustful Relationships and Deferring Medical Treatment in South Africa. Sociology Mind, 5, 188-199. doi: 10.4236/sm.2015.53017.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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