Publication date: July 2019
Source: Social Science & Medicine, Volume 232
Author(s): Sylvie Morel
In the social imagination, there is no wait for a so-called “medical emergency,” because it seems obvious to everyone that “saving lives” is not up for discussion. In the context of such social consensus, it is unthinkable to question access to emergency healthcare through the prism of discrimination and social inequality. Yet these social representations of emergency do not withstand ethnographic inquiry. Several years spent behind the scenes in this world revealed that there do in fact exist social selection practices in the realm of emergency care in France. More specifically, this study shows that medical interests and the interests of both public and private institutions have led to the production of socially differentiated pathways of access to emergency care. The first pathway is through private, for-profit clinics, the second is through public hospitals, a third occurs by “bypassing” the emergency department, and a final one groups the non-governmental social and health assistance structures. In this article, we discuss the specific mechanisms they have for selecting patients, and show how the organization of emergency care in France contributes to reproducing or even aggravating inequalities in health and access to healthcare.