Interview with Mar Rosàs Tosas

The next few months we’ll be highlighting authors who have published in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry.

Mar Rosàs Tosas is a full-time lecturer at Blanquerna School of Health Sciences at Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain.

She specializes in how illness narratives are shaped by (and reproduce) mainstream economic, political and cultural logics at stake in that context. She previously coordinated the research on applied ethics of Ethos Chair (Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, 2014-2022) and was the editor in chief of its Ramon Llull Journal of Applied Ethics, was a full-time lecturer at the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Chicago (2012-2014), and held a doctoral scholarship at Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, 2008-2011).

What is your articleInterrupting Patients in Healthcare Settings: What is Being Interrupted?about?

Scientific literature since the 1980s examines the phenomenon of healthcare professionals interrupting patients: at which second patients opening expositions are interrupted and how long they take if unrestrained. Although the goal of this literature is strictly numerical—determining interventions’ length—, it reveals several its authors’ views and preferences. Our discourse analysis reveals, first, that, often in between the lines, this literature suggests reasons for letting patients speak freely and tries to dismantle the myth of the overly-loquacious patient. Second, by turning to some philosophical inquiries into the notion of ‘‘interruption,’’ we explore how, within this literature, the ultimate reason for interrupting patients and silencing several of their concerns is often the fear of a certain medical logic being interrupted—a logic that dates back to Vesalius and Bichat, and that informs nowadays biomedicine: patients’ speech is valuable as long as it contributes to a diagnosis in the form of the identification of an underlying tissue damage. This literature presents the interruption of patients as a device of claiming power on the part of an eminently biomedical approach to illness. The paper provides further reasons for not interrupting patients proposed by the biopsychosocial model, ‘‘narrative medicine,’’ and anthropologists who study the functions of illness narratives.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your research interests.   

I specialize in how illness narratives are shaped by (and reproduce) mainstream economic, political and cultural logics at stake in that context. I hold a PhD in Philosophy in the role that the Jewish messianic tradition plays in philosophy of Jacques Derrida and other contemporary philosophers, such as Rosenzweig, Lévinas, Taubes, Agamben, Badiou, and Zizek.

What drew you to this project?

The frequency with which patients complain that physicians do not listen to them, as well as the training physicians receive to conduct patients’ interviews (which, in my view, all too often does not allow them to become better listeners, but worse listeners).

What was one of the most interesting findings?

 My review of the existing literature since the 1980s on how and why patients are interrupted allows us to conclude that there have been no major changes since then: even those who advocate for listening more to patients seem to suggest that this extra attention is necessary in order to guarantee that the healthcare professional does not miss any ‘‘useful’’ information for diagnosis or in assessing the effect of a previously prescribed treatment. This clashes with the trends in medical humanities in the last four decades that value patients’ speech and narrative for several reasons beyond the contribution to a diagnosis. Within this literature, the ultimate reason for interrupting patients and silencing several of their concerns is often the fear of a certain medical logic being interrupted—a logic that dates back to Vesalius and Bichat, and that informs nowadays biomedicine: patients’ speech is valuable as long as it contributes to a diagnosis in the form of the identification of an underlying tissue damage.   

What are you reading, listening to, and/or watching right now?

The last book that I read was Idaho by Ruskovich.

If there was one takeaway or action point you hope people will get from your work, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to listen to everything your patients want to say. Your schedule will not collapse. And your work will be clinically and morally better.

Thank you for your time!


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