Medicine, like law, the military, and many other professions, has its own language — a kind of verbal secret handshake by which its members recognize one another and close ranks against outsiders. Sometimes, the use of technical terms, abbreviations, and other forms of jargon can impair patients’ understanding of their medical care. A recent Wall Street Journal article discusses the extent to which clinicians overestimate patients’ “health literacy” — with potentially dangerous results. But sometimes, medical lingo has a more subtle negative effect: It reinforces our false sense of being less human, less fallible than our patients.
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