Wednesday, September 5, 2007


When George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion in 1913, he set out to prove that the proper or improper use of the English language could transform a flower girl into a duchess and, conversely, a duchess into a flower girl.

A highly successful playwright who felt that his main purpose was to shock people out of conventional ways of thinking, Shaw described his stage works as unpleasant because "their dramatic power is used to force the spectator to face unpleasant facts."

Because language is not well respected in today's society, words get thrown around the medical profession in a very casual and careless manner. Dictating doctors are often the worst offenders.

Because words and numbers form the currency of patient documentation, this blog focuses attention on how words and numbers are used -- and misused -- in the creation of medical records. That means holding doctors accountable for the mistakes they make and attacking the problem at its source.

Alas, many doctors can't handle criticism. And far too many people working in the healthcare professions are afraid to confront doctors and tell these physicians that they have made mistakes.

In many ways our society is rooted in denial. Too many Americans rely on euphemisms as a way to avoid confronting difficult issues. So let's examine a decidedly unpleasant issue which must be faced head on:

To date, more Americans have succumbed to AIDS than died in the Vietnam War. Yet we must still deal with doctors, editors, and authority figures in politics and the media who don't hesitate to talk about the social ramifications of sexually-transmitted diseases without being willing or able to talk candidly about sex.

If, as a physician, you can feel comfortable sticking your hand inside a patient's rib cage and holding a person's beating heart between your fingers, then words should never threaten you.

If, however, the power of language can so severely rattle your nerves that you cannot manage to use words properly, then you have no business dictating or transcribing medical reports.Some of the words which appear in this blog (which are used quite freely in our society's vernacular) might offend you or conjure up frightening thoughts. Don't be alarmed. They are merely words. Their power over you is only as great as your deepest fears and darkest secrets.

Next: Let's Play Pretend

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1 comment:

Carolyn Dane said...

Excellent work, George. I'd love to see doctors flocking here - especially the ones I transcribe.