Triage originated when doctors went to war, or confronted disasters. When the number of casualties overwhelmed the capacity to care for them it was necessary to determine the order and priority of patients to be treated. Today triage is central to emergency medicine: even when resources are adequate to treat all patients, they must still be sorted in order of priority. Triage has in fact become integral to contemporary medicine, occurring whenever situations demand decisions be made to prioritise treatment, or determine which subjects should receive care, be admitted to hospital, or be enrolled in clinical trials.
This conference will study the logics and practices of the triage: the sorting and the selection of subjects in medical care and research. It will adresss the epistemological, political and ethical rationalizations which underpin, enact and legitimate triage. It will examine triage operations in their political, social and economic contexts. It seeks to understand how triage proceeds from, and at the same time produces, principles, values and choices as well as material constraints and necessities.
The analytic focus on triage renews the critical and ethical reflection on medicine, by bringing to fore inequalities in access to treatment, structural violence and structural neglect. As triage operates choices among the bodies deserving attention, it constitutes – this is our hypothesis – the other side of care, and the very foundation of contemporary medical practices and biopolitics.
The conference will bring together historians, philosophers and anthropologists, as well as specialists in medical ethics and practicioners of clinical medicine and humanitarian aid.
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