Crying baby gets the milk? The governmentality of grievance redressal for patient rights violations in Karnataka, India

Meena Putturaj, Anja Krumeich, Prashanth Nuggehalli Srinivas, Nora Engel, Bart Criel, Sara Van Belle

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Background Patient rights aim to protect the dignity of healthcare-seeking individuals. Realisation of these rights is predicated on effective grievance redressal for the victims of patient rights violations. Methods We used a critical case (that yields the most information) of patient rights violations reported in Karnataka state (South India) to explore the power dynamics involved in resolving grievances raised by healthcare-seeking individuals. Using interviews, media reports and other documents pertaining to the case, we explored the 'governmentality' of grievance redressal for patient rights violations, that is, the interaction of micropractices and techniques of power employed by actors to govern the processes and outcomes. We also examined whether existing governmentality ensured procedural and substantive justice to care-seeking individuals. Results Collective action was necessary by the aggrieved women in terms of protests, media engagement, petitions and follow-up to ensure that the State accepted a complaint against a medical professional. Each institution, and especially the medical professional council, exercised its power by problematising the grievance in its own way which was distinct from the problematisation of the grievance by the collective. The State bureaucracy enacted its power by creating a maze of organisational units and by fragmenting the grievance redressal across various bureaucratic units. Conclusion There is a need for measures guaranteeing accountability, transparency, promptness, fairness, credibility and trustworthiness in the patient grievance redressal system. Governmentality as a framework enabled to study how subjects (care-seeking individuals) are rendered governable and resist dominant forces in the grievance redressal system for patient rights violations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere008626
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number5
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Female
  • Government
  • Humans
  • India
  • Male
  • Patient Rights


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