Unmet medical care needs in persons with multiple chemical sensitivity: A grounded theory of contested illness

Pamela Reed Gibson, Britney Leaf, Victoria Komisarcik


We interviewed nineteen persons with self-reported multiple chemical sensitivities in order to explore medical care access and use for this population with a “contested” illness.  Interviews were analyzed using grounded theory in the tradition of Glaser, via incident, focused, and theoretical coding. We named the core category health quest (resisting annihilation) and construed four categories that embody the essence of this quest: illness as omnipotent, bidding for access, standard protocols irrelevant, and transcending hegemony. The categories suggest that mainstream medicine is unprepared to care for this population, that standard interventions are ineffective but used regardless, and that persons feel that they must survive on their own outside of the structured medical care system. In fact, most informants avoided medical care unless faced with an emergency. Results are discussed in terms of the need to recognize and understand this health problem.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v6n5p75

Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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