Social and legal entities play a central role in both healthcare and biomedical research. Such entities include basic healthcare roles (provider, payer, patient), organizational structures (hospital, biobank, institutional review board, health insurance providers), and legal entities (informed consent, physician liability, health insurance policies). Documents are relevant entites in this context.
Documents are valuable entities for all the society, once they are pervasive entities in the everyday life. They are present in different sorts of organizations, acting as endpoints of information flows. A wide variety of documents is used in a multitude of fields of human activity, which makes complex the task of seeking systematic approaches to characterize them.
From a practical point of view, it is a recording function that documents primarily serve. Some documents, though, are bearers of additional properties and not merely record data. This is already true for simple documents, for example a blood donor questionnaire, in which a donor sign thus testifying the validity of the information therein provided. Those documents reveal other aspects, insofar as they give rise to new sorts of commitments. Through a document, one can create obligations to others, as in the case of a blood donation order; acquit an institution of legal problems, as in the case of a consent letter; induce the adoption of certain procedures, as in “[…] established as mandatory by “International Regulations”. Hence, documents exhibit a variety of ethical playing an essential role in many human interactions within organizations.
We are not concerned here with the semantic meaning of documents though. What interest us here are either the effects that documents might have within certain contexts or the combined effect of a sentences-set, rather than the particular form of communication adopted. Speech acts, as we have seen, produce additional effects in the social environment; through the use of language we can do things with words (Austin).
Accordingly, acts produced by documents also generate additional social effects which are worth to be accounted. As documents perdure through time, these effects turn into other ones not directly observable whereas they manifest themselves in other temporal and geographical contexts.
- Reinach, A. (1989), Sämtliche Werke. Texkritische Ausgabe, Edited by Karl Schuhmann & Barry Smith, München: Philosophia Verlag.
- Smith, B. (2008). Searle and de Soto: The new ontology of the social world, The Mystery of Capital and the Construction of Social Reality. Edited by B. Smith, D.M. Mark & I. Ehrlich, United States, Open Court., 35-52.
- Smith, B. (2012). How to Do Things With Documents. Rivista di estetica, 50 (2/2012), LII: 179-198.