Jeannette Pols (1966) is Socrates Professor at the department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Behavioral & Social Sciences, at the University of Amsterdam. The chair is established on behalf of the Socrates Foundation. The name of the chair is ‘Social Theory, Humanism & Materialities’, or more colloquially: empirical ethics in care. She works as associate professor at the section of Medical Ethics, Department of General Practice at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam.
The mission of Pols’ chair is to build bridges between research in medical ethics and medical anthropology. Her research and teaching develop the ethnographic study of ethical questions. Technologies are central here. In comparative ethnographic analyses, her research provides insight into the practical and desirable ways in which these technologies shape care and societies, and the repertoires of ‘being human’ that follow from these practices. The aim is to discover and develop normative directions in complex technological societies.
Pols research runs along three main axes. She studies:
Jeannette Pols teaches ethnographic and empirical ethics research to audiences trained or training in ethnographic research, science & technology studies, theory of the social sciences, and empirical ethics. She teaches empirical ethics and practical approaches to discuss ethical problems to medical students and health care professionals.
Jeannette Pols studied Social Philosophy and Clinical Psychology in Groningen, when the quantitative turn in the social sciences was in full swing. Against these tides, she conducted her first ethnographic study in a nursing home for people with dementia, and published her first journal article about this research in the Dutch Monthly Journal for Mental Health Care (MGV) which was awarded with a honorable mention for being one of the best articles of the year’s issue.
Pols received her PhD from the University of Twente, for an award winning study in empirical ethics. The study ethnographically unravelled what ‘good care’ is by studying how nurses and patients shaped care ‘in action’. Not only did the ideals differ greatly between long term mental health care and residential care for older people, but so where the ways in which the nurses accounted for these ideals. Washing reluctant patients, for example, was legitimized in a scientific style (‘Our approach measurably develops patient independence!’), or an ethical style (‘You should take care of people who cannot look after themselves!’). Both styles of accounting co-exist, but it is unclear how they might relate.
At the time of this study, Pols worked with the Trimbos-institute in Utrecht. Since 2006, Pols works with the staff of the section of Medical ethics, Department of General Practice in the Amsterdam Medical Centre. Here, she studied the development of telecare in the Netherlands by ethnographically studying how patients use telecare technologies at home, and nurses in the hospital. She shows how both people and devices attempt to ‘tame’ one another, but also ‘unleash’ new possibilities.
Recently, she is working on a book with the working title: ‘On the empirical study of values. Aesthetic values in daily life and care’.
Politicians promote telecare as an efficient and affordable solution in providing medical care for an ageing population. Telecare, they promise us, will support older people with chronic disease to ‘manage’ themselves better and thereby reduce the amount of health professionals needed. Nevertheless, technology-pessimists assert that telecare will transform human care into a distant and cold affair. They predict that older people will die while under the continuous surveillance of sensors and cameras, but remote from any real human contact.
This widely researched study presents some of the detailed ethnographic analyses of the pioneering care practices in which patients and nurses use telecare devices. It analyses these practices with the help of theoretical insights drawn from various fields, such as anthropology, science- & technology studies and empirical ethics.
The author concludes that neither a caring utopia of self managing patients nor an uncaring high-tech health care system bears any resemblance to actual care practices employing telecare. In the observed practices, telecare leads to more intense caring relations, resulting from a spectacular raise in the frequency of contacts between nurses and patients. Patients are much taken by this, not because they feel they are finally able to manage themselves better, but because they can ‘leave things to the experts’.The patients find that caring is something that is best done for others.
The book frames urgent questions about the future of care and telecare, and points to ways in which innovative care practices can be built on actual and everyday concerns, rather than on hopes, hypes or nightmares.
Keywords:care, ethnography, empirical ethics, values, technology, aesthetics, patient positions, practical knowledge of patients
On the empirical study of values. Aesthetic values in daily life and care.
The rise of consumer e-health.
Dignity. Aesthetic values in daily life and care.
Financing: ZONMW/ Aspasia NWO
Delaying institutionalization, sustaining families: Comparative case studies of care at home for persons with dementia.
Financing: Canadian Institutes of Health Research. With partners from Canada, UK, Iceland & Norway.
Ethical Frameworks for Telecare Technologies for older people at home (EFORTT). In collaboration with partners from UK, Spain & Norway. EC FP7.
Care from a distance. A normative investigation into telecare.
NWO Ethiek Research and Policy
Ariane d’Hoop, Spatial arrangements in psychiatric care practice. An anthropological inquiry.
Annelieke Driessen We are our body: Understanding the lived body and bodywork in dementia care.
Tanja Ahlin, Connected Care: Providing media-assisted care for elderly people in Indian transnational families.
2010-present Antje Seeber, The new model of palliative care in neurology.
Annemarie van Hout, Palliative care at a distance.
Else Vogel, Eating enough: practices of eating well in Dutch obesity care.
2007-2012 Sabine Ootes, Being in place. Citizenship in Long-term mental health care
2006-2009 Susanne de Kort, Aims and reasons. Ethical questions about palliative systemic anticancer therapy.
2014 Tobias Hauesermann, Cambridge University| 2013; Karen D. Nielsen, Telecare & chronic disease, Copenhagen University| 2012 Juan Aceros, Aging and telecare, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona.