Sometimestheylookedforinformationafterbeinggivencontradictory advice or realising that their doctors found it hardto keep up with a rapidly changing subject. The internet alsoenables people to investigate the expertise and reputation of ahospital and staff and any evidence of “postcode rationing.” Asthe extract from respondent BC41 (box 2) shows, searches onthe internet may be used after treatment for reassurance thatoptimal treatment was given. Other respondents identified treat-ments they preferred (PC42, CC19) and options that theysuspected they would not have been offered (TC05). Peoplediffer in how they handle the information they have gained andhow it affects their relationship with their doctors. However, thefact that this “checking up” can be achieved covertly without adoctor’s knowledge may avoid threats to “face” that could endan-gerthedoctor-patientrelationshipandriskunnecessaryconflict.17 18Displaying competenceAnother way that the internet is changing people’s relationshipwith their illness is that they can gain, maintain, and displayfamiliarity with a remarkable body of medical and experientialknowledge about their illness. Radley and Billig have pointed outthat “being a good patient means having to fulfil a sociologicallyambivalent position. The patient must appear to be more than apatient, a display of healthiness, or normality is also required forthe individual to appear worthy of receiving the entitlements.”19The ability to access a wide range of disparate information onthe internet, coupled with the opportunity to present themselvesastechnicallyproficientanddiscriminatingusersofsuchinformation, enabled respondents to display a modern form ofcompetence and social fitness in the face of serious illness.
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