How Much Does Language Matter in Medicine?

July 10, 2019

Did the patient fail the treatment, or did the treatment fail the patient? Word choice can influence perceptions as well as outcomes. When physicians use jargon, it can leave patients feeling confused and disempowered.

In addition, some people find labels such as "diabetic" and "schizophrenic" dehumanizing, giving the disease center stage ahead of the person.

"A lot of the language that's baked into medicine reflects a time when medicine was more paternalistic, when patients were not equals or partners," says oncologist Tatiana Prowell. Is it time to rethink some of the old phrases, or is this just political correctness run amok?


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