Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Jenkins, D., Holmes, D., Burton, C., Murray, S.J.
‘This Is Not a Patient, This Is Property of the State’: Nursing, ethics, and the immigrant detention apparatus (2020) Nursing inquiry, p. e12358.

DOI: 10.1111/nin.12358

This paper opens with first-hand accounts of critical care medical interventions in which detainees, in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), are brought to the emergency department for treatment. This case dramatizes the extent to which the provision of ethical and acceptable nursing care is jeopardized by federal law enforcement paradigms. Drawing on the scholarship of Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben, this paper offers a theoretical account of the power dynamics that inform the health care of patients who find themselves caught in the custodial scaffolding of a vast immigration and detention apparatus. It offers an analysis of the display of sovereign and biopolitical power over the lives (and deaths) of detainees (Foucault), as well as the ways these individuals are reduced to “bare life” under the political pretext of an emergency or “state of exception” (Agamben). Our purpose here is both theoretical and practical: to better understand the often hidden agency or impersonal “will” exercised by the immigrant detention system, but also to equip clinicians in these and cognate facilities (e.g., prisons) with the critical tools by which they might better navigate incommensurable paradigms (i.e., care vs. custody) in order to deliver the best care while upholding their ethical duties as a care provider. This is all the more pressing because hospitals are not sanctuaries and given the incursion of federal law enforcement agents, nurses may find themselves conscripted as de facto agents of the state. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Author Keywords
critical theory; ethics; foucault; politics; professional issues

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