Revisiting language that disempowers patients

In this BMJ Analysis, Caitríona Cox and Zoë Fritz argue that outdated medical language that casts doubt, belittles, or blames patients jeopardises the therapeutic relationship and is overdue for change. It is the Editor’s Choice and features on the front cover of the BMJ.

“Much of the language highlighted here is deeply ingrained in medical practice and is used unthinkingly by clinicians. However, we believe that it is now outdated”.

It may be uncomfortable reading for health professionals to be challenged  in this way. We all like to think that we are trying to do our best for our patients and a degree of defensiveness is understandable over what is likely to reflect thoughtless inculcated habits rather than deliberate denigration.

However, the writers are correct to revisit this issue by reminding us of the patient’s viewpoint: choice of language is important and needs to be carefully considered. It would be very disappointing to see overly defensive responses such has happened when this issue has been studied in the past. Nearly 30 years ago, this letter was published in the Psychiatric Bulletin

April 1993, Psychiatric Bulletin 17(4):244-244

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