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People belonging to cancer patient support groups participated in focus groups concerning their experiences of orthodox and complementary medicine. Their accounts of treatment decisions for cancer were analysed through discourse analysis. Accounts of both complementary and orthodox medicine addressed an ideological dilemma concerning the positioning of individuals as active or passive. Active positions were congruent with the everyday value of autonomy and responsible individuality, but conflicted with the established expertise of the medical profession in cancer and entailed being accountable for one's health. Passive positions reversed this situation. Complementary medicine provided an opportunity for people with cancer to negotiate active positions in a limited domain of health care. The responsibility for health associated with taking active treatment decisions was problematic in accounts of both orthodox and complementary medicine.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





465 - 482