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Military metaphors and pandemic propaganda: unmasking the betrayal of ‘Healthcare Heroes’


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

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