Eliza Brown, "Gaming Health: How Patients and Doctors Weigh Chance and Risk in Fertility Clinics"

Hybrid: The Graduate Hotel, California Room & via Zoom

This talk illustrates how, in the context of consumer medicine, physicians convince patients to invest in particular medical treatments by weighing risks with them, reframing uncertain processes as calculable gambles. I delve into the case of twins as a by-product of fertility treatment, which transitioned from a welcome outcome to a problematic one for fertility professionals, while remaining a desirable birth outcome for many patients. From observing hundreds of patient-provider consults at three fertility clinics in New York State that catered to distinct patient populations, as well as conducting over a hundred in-depth interviews with patients and medical providers, I argue that providers reframe the prospect of having twins to patients by communicating with them not only about the associated health risks, but also those related to temporal, financial, and emotional constraints, and show how these negotiations diverge depending clinics' organizational imperatives, particularly the class of patients they are set up to serve. 


Eliza Brown is a postdoctoral scholar in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and received her PhD in sociology from New York University in 2021. She works on topics at the intersection of medicine and reproduction, temporality and anticipation, and economic sociology, with particular interests in two main areas: how people negotiate the often-uneasy relationship between romantic and reproductive projects, and how medical providers and patients manage risk and uncertainty in consumer medicine. Her research has been published in American Sociological Review, Social Science & Medicine, and Sociological Forum.