Archive for julio 2011

How we call or qualify somebody does really matter and shows with more or less subtlety, depending on our stance towards what is now called political correctness, what we think about that person in particular.

Almost everybody will agree that if I address somebody as that person, the implication is that I don’t think very highly of him or her. Shopkeepers will treat people who enter the shop differently if they think about them as buyers –they should come, buy and leave- than if they think about them as clients –they are here to be served and will come back-.

If we assume  the above, why is it that in the health sector we keep insisting on calling people patients? According to the Free Online Dictionary (and I assure you very similar definitions will be found in any other dictionary) the definitions  for “patient” are:


1. Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.

2. Marked by or exhibiting calm endurance of pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance.

3. Tolerant; understanding: an unfailingly patient leader and guide.

4. Persevering; constant. “With patient industry, she revived the failing business and made it thrive”.

5. Capable of calmly awaiting an outcome or result; not hasty or impulsive.

6. Capable of bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance: «My uncle Toby was a man patient of injurie» (Laurence Sterne).


1. One who receives medical attention, care, or treatment.

2. Linguistics: A noun or noun phrase identifying one that is acted upon or undergoes an action. Also called goal.

3. Archaic: One who suffers.

A neutral reader will see that most of the definitions refer to suffering or calmly enduring something. Does this not say a lot about how the health sector regards what should be, and are, its clients?

Unless health professionals start thinking about people in need of health advice as clients, and calling them clients, I think there is little hope for an effective re-engineering of the heath processes that will result in the necessary sustainable health and social system. Anything less is just plugging holes in an antiquated social and health provision system.

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