Recent treatment option advances in haemophilia care have contributed to a discourse of ‘normality’ around the condition, in which people with haemophilia (PwH) are increasingly expected to live ‘normal’ lives unburdened by their condition.


The aim of this article is to explore notions of ‘normality’ in the experience of haemophilia across generations. This is one of the main themes identified in a large-scale ethnographic study of the everyday life of PwH, a broad qualitative investigation of beliefs and experiences related to condition, treatment, and personal ways of managing the condition.


The study used ethnographic research methods. Five haemophilia experts helped frame the research design by contributing historical and disease area context prior to the initiation of field research. PwH were recruited through patient organisations in five European countries (Italy, Germany, Spain, UK and Ireland). During field research, study researchers collected data through 8–12 hours of participant observation, semi-structured interviews, written exercises, facilitated group dialogues, and on-site observations of PwH interactions with friends, family, and health care professionals (HCPs). They also conducted on-site observation at haemophilia treatment centres (HTCs) and HCP interviews. The study employed a multi-tiered grounded theory approach and combined data were analysed using techniques such as inductive and deductive analysis, cross-case analysis, challenges mapping, and clustering exercises. This article explores findings related to the discourse of ‘normality’ and is thus focused on a subset of the data from the study.


Fifty-one PwH, aged 1.5 to 82 years, were interviewed and followed in their daily lives. Six treatment centres were visited, and 18 HCPs were interviewed. The study found that a discourse of present day ‘normality’, as compared to a difficult past, is ingrained in the haemophilia community. As a result, unlike most older PwH (40+), younger PwH (under 18) are not always taught to acknowledge the severity of their condition or how to sense bleeds (disease-related embodied knowledge), and risk unknowingly doing long-term damage to their bodies. Twenty-seven per cent (n=7/26) of younger PwH (children, teenagers) in the study were observed or described as engaging in high-risk behaviours in the short term indicating a lack understanding of long-term consequences.


These findings suggest that the discourse of ‘normality’ presents a number of challenges that need to be addressed, namely the potential for younger PwH to be unaware of bleeds and the general underreporting of haemophilia-related complications and limitations. One way forward in realising the full potential of advanced treatment could be to teach young PwH, through evidence-based initiatives, how to develop an embodied sense of their bleeds. Furthermore, if the current state of life with haemophilia is accepted as finally ‘normal’, then progress in further improving care may be stalled. It is important that remaining and new challenges are recognised in order for them to be acted upon.

Publication timeframe:
Volume Open
Journal Subjects:
Medicine, Basic Medical Science, other, Clinical Medicine, Pharmacy, Pharmacology