Theorising the hospice gaze: A Foucauldian collaborative ethnography of a palliative day care service

Maurice Nagington, David Holman, Clare Mumford, Leo McCann

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Foucault's medical gaze has only been minimally applied to palliative care through the analysis of key policy documents. This paper develops the conceptualisation of Foucault's medical gaze using empirical data gathered from a group ethnography of a hospice daycare centre. Using Foucault's medical gaze as a theoretical aporia we conceptualise the “hospice gaze”. We argue the hospice gaze is the antithesis of the Foucauldian medical gaze, suggesting it operates reflexively so that professionals adapt to patients, rather than patients to professionals; that it is directed towards enabling patients and their loved ones to narrate severe illness and death in ways that develop more patient-centred narratives; and, structures the processes of care in direct resistance to the neoliberalisation of healthcare by engaging in slow practices of care with patient's bodies and minds. Finally, key to all of this is how the hospice gaze manages the spaces of care to ensure that it always and already appears slow to the patients. Therefore, the hospice gaze ensures a (re)distribution of power and knowledge that minimises the corrosive qualities of busyness and maximises the ethical potentials of slowness. We conclude by arguing that the operation of the hospice gaze should be examined in other settings where palliative care is practiced such as in-patient and home care services.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11470
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date8 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Slow care
  • Palliative care
  • Hospice
  • Foucault
  • Medical gaze
  • Slow ethics

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