Chapter published in:Argumentation between Doctors and Patients: Understanding clinical argumentative discourse
Frans H. van Eemeren, Bart Garssen and Nanon Labrie
[Not in series 235] 2021
► pp. 37–55
The argumentation structure
Argumentation advanced by a doctor or a patient in medical consultations consists in the simplest case of just one single argument, but can also have a more complex structure. If the argumentation consists of more than one alternative defense of the same standpoint, the argumentation structure is called multiple. If the argumentation consists of several arguments that need to be taken together, the argumentation structure is coordinative. Another type of complex argumentation occurs when one argument supports the other. In this case the argumentation structure is called subordinative. Sometimes a doctor or patient makes clear in the presentation of the argumentation what the argumentation structure is by the use of verbal indicators of multiple, coordinative, or subordinative argumentation, but more often than not in the argumentative exchange taking place in a medical consultation no such indicators are to be found. When in doubt about whether the argumentation advanced by the doctor or the patient is multiple or coordinative, one is advised to opt for a “maximally argumentative analysis” and regard the argumentation as multiple, so that every component of the doctor’s or the patient’s argumentation will be maximally given its due when the defense of the standpoint is evaluated. In a well-defined context, such as a medical consultation, the reconstruction of elements that have been left unexpressed in the discourse can sometimes be helpful in providing a more adequate analysis of subordinative argumentation.