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Pills, Life, Agency

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Pills, Life, Agency takes an in-depth look at a highly repercussive context of healthcare. It aims to describe the nature and extent of shared decision-making between patients with HIV and their doctors, and how agency and identity are negotiated within discussions around treatment and adherence. A secondary aim is to demonstrate the value and raise the visibility of functional linguistics as a methodology in health communication. Material for the book includes 75 consultations between Sydney doctors and patients with HIV during the late 1990s, capturing an important historical moment for HIV medicine and participatory approaches more generally.

For linguists, the main message of Pills, Life, Agency is that phenomena such as the agentive relations between participants in institutional (and other) contexts need a model that co-ordinates descriptions at multiple strata – one cannot move directly from clause-level or word-level descriptions to an adequate description of the context. If a multistratal approach is taken then the important interactive work of ‘semiotic agency’ (Moore 2003) can be revealed through textual analysis. For healthcare researchers, this book will provide an alternative way of modelling clinical interaction, one that can accommodate language complexity and variability.

Published: Oct 1, 2025

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Chapter 1
Introduction Alison Moore
Chapter 2
Models of Shared Decision-Making in Medicine Alison Moore
Chapter 3
Framing the Study Alison Moore
Chapter 4
Modelling Agency - Why and How? Alison Moore
Chapter 5
Building a Description of HIV Treatment Decision-Making as Social Context Alison Moore
Chapter 6
Agency and Alignment Alison Moore
Chapter 7
Study Conclusions and Implications Alison Moore


Healthcare researchers will find in it an important and detailed model of shared decision making, while systemic-functional linguists and other applied linguists will find in it a model of how analytical depth can go together with relevance for the field of application.
Professor Theo van Leeuwen​, University of Technology, Sydney