December 13, 2013

Do We Need a New Word for Patient?

It seems that this is becoming a regular occurrence. Someone, somewhere is calling for new terms to describe people or persons. If it isn't for a disease like the different types of diabetes, it is the medical profession trying to obfuscate what they are talking about. Now it is a person wanting a different term for patient. While I admire her approach and her reasoning, we don't need to muddy the waters just to please a few people.

Anytime you present yourself to a doctor in the exam room, you are there as a patient, unless you are a representative of a drug company and pushing the latest drug(s) manufactured by the company you represent. If you are not in a hospital for treatment, or in a doctor's exam room, then you are who you are – Bob, Pat, John, Jane, - well you know who you are.

I admit I am tired of people being supposedly politically correct. This is bordering on the ridiculous. I see no need for a new word for patient. Think of the confusion this could provide. Many well understood words could be affected, such as doctor-patient relationship and this would become meaningless. How would you describe this relationship then? We as people do have some choice words for doctors that are not doing their job or do it very poorly. Similarly, doctors have many choice words they use to describe some patients.

Just as there are different types of patients, there are different types of doctors. Now I will take you to another blog. Dr. Jordan Grumet comes across another meaning for patient although he does not describe it that way. He used the term colleague when talking about a patient in this blog. And, in the way this is discussed, I can appreciate his use more than what others want for the term patient. Dr. Grumet does treat his patients as colleagues in discussions and treatment plans. While he does try to guide them in the decision, but he will listen to them and seriously consider their wishes.

This is one time I am happy that I did not post a blog when I thought I had it complete. Janet Byron Anderson, PhD wrote a great blog for Kevin Pho, MD about four linguistic reasons to leave the term patient remain as it is.
#1. Patient signifies a role we play, not the whole of who we are.

#2. Objections to patient target its unfavorable meanings and ignore favorable meanings that are no longer significant in modern Western culture.

#3. Unplanned semantic change can yield meanings that we’re comfortable with, while leaving the term intact.

#4. Patient has friends we’d have to deal with if we banished the term.

I enjoyed reading her blog and realized that there are people that agree with my position for leaving the term patient stand as is. I hope that you will agree.

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