TV Inside the Psychiatric Hospital: Patient Experiences

Kjersti Blehr Lånkan, Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud


This study investigates patients’ experiences with participating in a television (TV) documentary series filmed within psychiatric hospital wards. The study relies on interviews with patients, health staff, and TV producers, and asks how access is negotiated and how patients experience different phases of the production process. Based on a discussion of health ethics versus journalistic ethics, and the particular relations of power asymmetry and dependence within a health institution, the study concludes that a discourse emphasizing the benefits of openness worked to overshadow the need for extra sensitivity and care for the most vulnerable patients. Most patients appreciated the opportunity to share their experiences of illness and hospital treatment, but the increased strain on patients who were negatively affected by exposure calls for renewed attention to what informed consent and autonomy imply when media professionals enter health institutions.


journalist ethics, health ethics, laypeople, patients, mental illness, health coverage, reality TV

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