Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Military metaphors and pandemic propaganda: unmasking the betrayal of ‘Healthcare Heroes’
  1. Zahra Khan1,
  2. Yoshiko Iwai1,
  3. Sayantani DasGupta1,2
  1. 1 Narrative Medicine, Columbia University, New York, USA
  2. 2 Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Ms Yoshiko Iwai, Narrative Medicine, Columbia University, New York, USA; yoshiko.i{at}


Dr Caitríona L Cox’s recent article expounds the far-reaching implications of the ‘Healthcare Hero’ metaphor. She presents a detailed overview of heroism in the context of clinical care, revealing that healthcare workers, when portrayed as heroes, face challenges in reconciling unreasonable expectations of personal sacrifice without reciprocity or ample structural support from institutions and the general public. We use narrative medicine, a field primarily concerned with honouring the intersubjective narratives shared between patients and providers, in our attempt to deepen the discussion about the ways Healthcare Heroes engenders military metaphor, antiscience discourse, and xenophobia in the USA. We argue that the militarised metaphor of Healthcare Heroes not only robs doctors and nurses of the ability to voice concerns for themselves and their patients, but effectively sacrifices them in a utilitarian bargain whereby human life is considered the expendable sacrifice necessary to ‘open the U.S. economy’. Militaristic metaphors in medicine can be dangerous to both doctors and patients, thus, teaching and advocating for the critical skills to analyse and alter this language prevents undue harm to providers and patients, as well as our national and global communities.

  • applied and professional ethics
  • health workforce
  • health personnel
  • interests of health personnel/institutions
  • clinical ethics

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors All authors contributed equally and are responsible for the research, analysis, writing and editing of this manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.