What’s your favorite example of the weird way doctors speak?

Every profession has it’s own jargon. This is often helpful because it lets members of the profession (or trade) communicate with each other efficiently and accurately. Medicine is no different in that regard from a host of other professions. But more than a few doctors get into communication troubles when they use their jargon with patients and families. I can think of many examples of that.

But just as weird are the speech constructions doctors often use, both to patients and to each other. Chief among these is the constant use of passive, rather than active sentence constructions. The passive leaves out who is actually doing stuff, suggesting sometimes that things just happened on their own. For example, instead of saying, “Dr. X did an operation on Mr. Jones,” you often hear “an operation was performed on Mr. Jones.” Or, instead of saying “we decided to do this,” you’ll hear “it was decided to do this.” The actor(s) get left out.

Another very odd construction one often hears, when a particular patient might be helped by treatment X, is that “the patient is a candidate for treatment X.” It sounds vaguely as if the patient were running for office or something.

Most of us have heard odd things like this. I’d be interested in reading yours.


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