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"Doctors discuss my daughter like she's nothing"


A doctor in Cambridge is spearheading a project to help to reform "blunt" medical language that patients and their families can find upsetting.

Ethicist Zoe Fritz said language that "casts doubt, belittles or blames patients" was long overdue for change.

Sixteen-year-old Josselin Tilley from Wiltshire has charge syndrome that reduces her life expectancy.

Her mother Karen said Josselin's death was often referred to in correspondence "like she's not a person.

"It's not person-centred at all, it's like she's just nothing."

The example she gave was an extract from a typical letter in November that she was copied in to by a community paediatrician addressed to colleagues.

"Death below 35: On discussion with Josselin's mum early death has been discussed with her, and there is plan, discussed with Josselin's mother about a wishes document being done."

Mrs Tilley, from Westbury, said she objected to the use of language that "very bluntly discusses Josselin's death like she's something going off in the fridge".

Doctor Fritz said the reason she and doctor Caitriona Cox were running the campaign at Cambridge University was because they recognised language regularly used by clinicians was often problematic for anyone outside of medical practice.

"Even just (the term) presenting [a] complaint. Patients coming into hospital with whatever's bothering them we [doctors] talk about as a complaint and I think that infantilises the patient. They're not complaining when telling us what's going on."

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Source: BBC News, 17 January 2023

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