ERIC Number: ED284203
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1987-Mar
The Language of Medicine: The Ethics of Obscurity.
Because physicians are perceived as powerful and knowledgeable professionals, the language they use to address patients has a tremendous effect on a patient's mental and physical well-being. Physicians often speak to patients in "med-speak," obscure, highly technical terms that cloak the reality of the patient's condition and serve to reinforce the "inferior/superior" dynamic between patient and physician, and patients are often reluctant to ask physicians to clarify what they mean, for fear of being labeled ignorant and inferior. Physicians often view patients as having little or no knowledge of their own conditions that would help in a diagnosis or treatment, and having little capability to understand their conditions. Hence physicians converse with and listen to patients as little as possible. To reduce the distance between doctors and patients, medical schools must teach medical students (1) to look at patients as suffering humans rather than bodies housing disease, (2) to listen to patients carefully and make sure that patients understand what is said to them, and (3) to understand that the objective language of medicine cannot be objective when it is used to communicate with nonscientists. Patients must demand information from their physicians that is understandable. (Nine references are included.) (JC)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (38th, Atlanta, GA, March 19-21, 1987).