Sticks and stones

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7165.1028 (Published 17 October 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1028

Changing terminology is no substitute for good consultation skills

  1. Paul Freeling, Emeritus professor of general practice.,
  2. Linda Gask, Senior lecturer in psychiatry.
  1. St George's Hospital Medical School, London SW17 0RE
  2. National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PS

    Letters p 1081

    As children many of us learnt the old rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” As we grew older we discovered that the adage was untrue. For most of us whose profession involved interacting with other people it became obvious that clumsy or inapposite use of language could cause pain. An attempt to avoid such pain has provoked Hutchon and Cooper to suggest that distress in women who have miscarried would be reduced if changes were made in the language used by their professional carers (p 1081).1 The writers recommend that the word “abortion” should be avoided because the lay public interprets it as applying to a termination of preg- nancy. The authors cite alternatives that could be adopted in journal papers …

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