The Language of “Circule”: Discursive Construction of False Referral in Iranian Teaching Hospitals

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Abstract

This article explores the practice of false patient out-referral by medical students in Iranian teaching hospital emergency departments. Drawing on participant-observations and interviews during eight months in six hospitals in Tehran, we investigate how discourse is appropriated to construct and legitimate out-referrals through four general strategies of sympathy, mystification, intimidation, and procrastination. Based on a critical approach to false out-referral discourse, we revisit the medical and educational functioning of teaching hospitals in Iran: Focusing on medical students involved in false out-referrals, their discursive reproduction of deception is examined along with their legitimate challenges to institutional structures. Moreover, focusing on the institution of hospital, institutional corruption is discussed along with the problematic of covert cultural defiance faced by a modernist organizational construct in a nonmainstream cultural context. Finally, we argue that the discourse of false out-referral calls for more profound public awareness in dealing with health institutions.