Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Lately I've been reflecting on a few common descriptions of various medical contributions used by physicians to denote either the current status or future prognosis of a medical condition. The illogic of stating that a degenerative condition such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Muscular Dystrophy or even Multiple Sclerosis is "progressive", indicating the degree of functional deterioration over time, sounds like medical doublespeak wherein the term "progressive" actually means loss of ability as the condition spreads. It is a clear instance wherein language is used as a process of distancing oneself from the felt experiences of the patient living with the condition in his/her daily life. Cerebral Palsy, which is what I was born with, is a neurological condition that is considered relatively "stable" over time with an average life expectancy close to the norm, provided that a healthy lifestyle and flexible muscle tone is maintained. Physicians and others in the allied professions should only use such descriptors in the context of providing complete clinical summaries of the functional range required to carry out specific tasks. These additional details woul go a long way towards lessening the distancing effects of medical jargon and come closer to approximating the actual experiences of the consumer or patient with a disability, thereby facilitating constructive rapport between two participants in the dialogue.