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Keywords:

  • actor network theory;
  • cancer charities;
  • health technologies;
  • public participation;
  • science and technology studies

Abstract

Background and Aims  Investment in innovative health technologies has been a focus of increasing critical interest in the social sciences. With proponents of such systems expounding new techniques, a strong normative context emerges for their adoption. Informed by the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), this study focuses on the discourse used by charitable organizations involved in such investments and how their involvement contributes to the enrolment of vulnerable groups, such as cancer sufferers. A central concern of STS is the strategies scientists use when talking about their work. Methods of communication may often suggest there is only one possible solution to a perceived problem. Such determinism may be reflected in material used by fundraisers where technologies are discussed in a normative, deterministic and definitely desirable way. Charitable organizations in charge of fundraising may thus become deeply enrolled within programmes of development in which the legitimacy of knowledge claims and evidence production are difficult to examine.

Methods  Drawing on interviews with health-care practitioners and anonymised examples from public fundraising campaigns linked to two UK hospitals, this study explores a theoretical proposition that fundraising materials can be regarded as tools for the enrolment of vulnerable groups in the processes of technological change.

Results and Conclusions  Where patients are called upon to donate money for the newest, and hence perceived best, equipment, practitioners were of the opinion that unnecessary pressure may be placed on the public to support campaigns, the value of which may be unclear.