Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This talk aims to disentangle the knotted ethical complexity of data manipulations occurring at an Israeli medical bureaucracy as legitimate or corrupt acts. The Israeli Committee for the Enhancement of Healthcare Services (the Committee) is a government body that determines which new medical treatments will gain state subsidy and become publicly available as part of Israel’s universal healthcare system. The Committee makes its decisions according to informational portfolios, which includes medical, scientific, and epidemiological data for each of about 700 nominated treatments. The Committee’s administrative staff works yearlong to prepare these portfolios, according to preliminary information submitted by Israeli citizens and organizations who nominate treatments for the Committee’s consideration. I describe a case in which a patients’ organization submitted preliminary information that included originally insignificant data from scientific studies that they have taken out of context and rephrased in such ways that it became a crucial and compelling evidence. While the patient organization viewed data manipulation as an illicit yet ethically justifiable act that pushes the State to provide citizens with well-deserved care, Committee staff members considered it an acute ethical violation and a form of corrupt conduct. Accordingly, they likened their work to anti-corruption agents who must ensure that the State treats all its citizens equally. Tracing the different meanings attributed to data manipulations by patients and staff members, I offer to rethink the conceptual boundaries of corruption as dependent upon subjects’ conceptions of how the State should care for its citizens.