Medical Gaslighting:

Unfair Treatment of Oppressed Groups

While technical and professional communication (TPC) has traditionally been reputed for using fair, objective, and neutral forms of communication, a new movement is emerging that challenges technical communication against the experiences of individuals in minority groups, and the results are unsettling. There is a disconnection between the practice of technical communication in the medical field and the experiences of the societally oppressed. This impacts people of color, women, the transgender community, and the socio-economically disadvantaged. This structural oppression stems from the lack of agency in the medical field by minority groups. Authors: Erin A. Frost, Laura Gonzales, Marie E. Moeller analyze these medical inadequacies in their article Reimagining the Boundaries of Health and Medical Discourse in Technical Communication.

A lack of communication in the medical field limits the agency of oppressed individuals, and brushes aside the real issues that characterize inequality. “Americanized” social institutions such as the medical system were founded by white men, for white men. These patriarchal standards for medical care lack inclusivity, forcing anyone who exists outside of the “white male standard” to overcompensate to receive adequate medical care/attention (and even that’s not a guarantee). As a result of this marginalization, medical records have been erased that entail horror stories about tortured black women, treatment being withheld, and many instances of unethical gynecological practices. The healthcare system is a victim of the biopolitics that play a life-or-death game of chess determining who fits best with society, and providing optimal care only to those within that mold. 

The awareness for justice-driven practices is there, but it’s now up to the technical communicators to meet the demand for better representation in healthcare, and ultimately change the narrative to a more patient-centered approach. As a woman, it created new sympathies within me to be made hyper-aware of the challenges that other members of my community face. It’s time for internal change in the medical field. The oppression needs to end, as it is posing detrimental threats to the healthcare system and its patients. Patients have a right to adequate healthcare without social institutions posing a threat to their medical care.


Reimagining the Boundaries of Health and Medical Discourse in Technical Communication, by Erin A. Frost, Laura Gonzales, Marie E. Moeller

Viewpoint Written by Sherralyn Robbins, University of Maine

Edited by Christina Rendon, Texas State University

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