Bmj Usa: Letter

RAPID RESPONSES FROM BMJ.COM

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjusa.03020004 (Published 19 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:E190

From BMJ USA 2003;Feb:90

Following are edited excerpts from Rapid Responses generated by this article, which can be read in their entirety at http://bmj.com/cgi/eletters/325/7378/1449.—Editor

Can't we deal with uncertainty?

  1. Ellen Goudsmit, psychologist (ellengoudsmit@hotmail.com)
  1. Teddington, UK
  2. London, UK
  3. Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  4. Auckland, New Zealand
  5. Hawkes Bay Hospital, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

    EDITOR—Why can't we just say, “I'm terribly sorry but at the moment I don't know what's wrong with you”? Why can't we be honest and declare that the cause of the symptoms isn't clear? Honesty will not offend half as much as using terms with meanings likely to be misinterpreted—and which stop us from looking, or send us in the wrong direction. Some of my fellow mental health professionals find it hard to deal with uncertainty. It's actually quite a primitive response and something which deserves further attention. In essence, we can either admit to not knowing, or guess. To rely on words like ‘functional’ generally says more about us than about the patient's problems. It's better that we learn to deal with feelings of inadequacy and not give our patients misleading labels and inappropriate advice.

    Perpetuating ignorance

    1. Douglas T Fraser, freelance musician (doug@dtfraser.freeserve.co.uk)
    1. Teddington, UK
    2. London, UK
    3. Dublin, Republic of Ireland
    4. Auckland, New Zealand
    5. Hawkes Bay Hospital, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

      EDITOR—When a label applied to an individual or group we don't like causes offense, we invent a euphemism to replace it. This will serve us until the euphemism itself becomes offensive, whereupon we must invent the next euphemism, and so on. However it's not the euphemistic term itself that is offensive, it …

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