Intended for healthcare professionals

Sacred Cows

The need for political correctness in scientific writing

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 19 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1721
  1. James Le Fanu, general practitioner
  1. Mawbey Brough Health Centre, London SW8 2UD

    It is not immediately obvious why political correctness should feature so strongly as sacred cow number two on the hit list of visitors to the BMJ's website. Certainly, spouses have become partners lest the unmarried should take offence, and prostitutes have been transformed into sex workers (not that they are likely to be much concerned either way about their job title). But this can be lived with, and there has been nothing in medicine to compare with “Gingerbread Person,” “Baa, Baa Green Sheep,” or the myriad other absurdities of the politically correct lexicon.

    This verbal hygiene is, however, only the outer shell of political correctness. More serious is the censorship of significant facts and observations from scientific writing and which in turn explains why there is such a disparity between the everyday world as experienced by doctors and its bowdlerised, scarcely recognisable, reflection in the …

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