Deconstructing the Phenomenon of Apology


  • Amie Cameal Liddle



Hermeneutics, deconstruction, Gadamer, Richard Kearney, apology, patient complaints


Within Alberta Health Services, the Alberta Provincial Patient Relations Department employs Patient Relations Consultants (PRCs) to assist unsatisfied patients, investigate healthcare related concerns, and facilitate resolution. The patients, who are referred to as complainants, interpret their experience and come forward with their complaint; the PRC is responsible to then interpret the complaint and take it forward for redress. In doing so, offering complainants an apology is unavoidable. Patient relations is an interpretive practice, however, and there are shortcomings when apology is inserted into the conversation. In this article, I deconstruct apology from a patient relations perspective. I draw upon concepts in Richard Kearney’s Strangers, Gods and Monsters (2003), as well as the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jacques Derrida, to present an interpretive account of how the hospital is a host to strangers, and to patients. Following an unsatisfactory experience or adverse event, the patients become complainants, or monsters. The PRCs, who are also considered hosts, receive the monsters at their door and, in turn, they can become hostages to the monsters. In attempting to achieve “otherness” with the “monsters,” the phenomenon of apology is examined.


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