First do No harm: Medical legal violence and immigrant health in Coral County, USA.

08:00 EDT 9th July 2019 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "First do No harm: Medical legal violence and immigrant health in Coral County, USA."

Contemporary U.S. health and immigration policies exclude millions of noncitizens from healthcare coverage. Growing scholarship emphasizes legal status as a technology of social exclusion and determinant of health, but few studies capture the effects of recent policy uncertainty on noncitizen health. By examining the case of Coral County (a pseudonym), I highlight the challenges facing safety-net clinics and their noncitizen patients making life and death decisions amidst uncertainty before and after the 2016 presidential election. Observational and interview data with patients, clinic workers, and community partners (n = 27) revealed that growing anxiety over federal immigration policies altered clinical risk calculations through a process I refer to as "medical legal violence" (MLV). Whereas previous risk negotiation strategies leveraged bureaucratic routines to elevate imminent threats of illness and/or injury in health decisions, heightened immigration enforcement under the Trump administration shifted the balance in clinical risk calculations toward social risks of detention, deportation, and family separation. This transformed clinical care in Coral County by turning trusted medical-legal bureaucracies into potential tools for federal biopolitical surveillance of immigrant patients, blocking healthcare pathways and increasing patients' fear and anxiety.


Journal Details

This article was published in the following journal.

Name: Social science & medicine (1982)
ISSN: 1873-5347
Pages: 112411


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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

Violence based on gender that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. (From

Threatened or actual attempt to harm others at place of employment.

People who take drugs for a non-therapeutic or non-medical effect. The drugs may be legal or illegal, but their use often results in adverse medical, legal, or social consequences for the users.

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