The concept of “renoncement aux soins” (healthcare renunciation) was recently introduced into national IRDES surveys. It functions as an indicator of equity in healthcare access. For lack of an agreed-upon definition, this term is subject to various interpretations by decision-makers and survey researchers (the experts). This article aims at clarifying the definitions put forward by the experts and at analyzing those of non-experts. It is based on in-depth interviews mobilizing anthropological concepts and methods. The results show that, initially, “care renunciation” is absent from lay conceptions, but that when introduced, the concept is subject to varied representations. These were grouped into two distinct categories, the “healthcare renunciation-barrier” (caused by existing or perceived difficulties in the healthcare system) and “healthcare refusal.” These carry different meanings but nevertheless interact with one another in complex ways. The various meanings are differently mobilized according to patients’ trajectories in the healthcare system, according to the manner in which questions are formulated in the research process, and to the context in which the term is formulated.
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