Why We Should Stop Avoiding the Word “Patient” in Psychiatry

Published in Psychology Today on 23rd August 2016.

My first memorable experience of psychiatry as a medical student was not what I expected. Rather than my fumbling interactions with psychotic patients, or witnessing electroconvulsive therapy first-hand, I was struck by repeatedly hearing words that had me wondering whether I was interning for a law firm: “consumer” and “client.” To my confusion, I soon discovered the doctors and nurses were referring to the people we were treating. I had previously spent time in internal medicine, surgery and general practice, yet the afflicted had always been called “patient” or “64-year-old-aspiration-pneumonia.” The psychiatrists I found myself with were not lone linguistic anarchists though. Across Australia, the United States and Western Europe, terms such as “consumer” are increasingly being used. What changed?…

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