The Danger of Doctorspeak


Scott Abramson, MD

Fall 2006 - Volume 10 Number 3

This is a true story about medical jargon and how it may confuse our patients. A while ago, I happened to be involved in a hospitalized patient-family conference. There seemed to be about ten family members present, all very devoted and concerned, though not particularly medically sophisticated. With much compassion and patience, the hospital-based specialist doctor reported that the x-rays showed what was, almost certainly, a newly discovered cancer. The doctor pointed out the multiple brain lesions on the MRI. She informed the family about other lesions showing up in the bone and still other lesions in the liver. The primary lesion, she suspected, was most likely in the lung. She then explained how lesions could spread from the primary to different parts of the body. The family listened respectfully, but they seemed more than a bit puzzled by it all. Suddenly, one brave family member blurted out, "What's a lesion?"


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