Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Permanent loss of awareness is crucial to diagnosis of PVS

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 10 July 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:67

Rapid Response:

Negative Representations of Disease


William Whitehouse is quite right in asserting that particular words
can carry other connotations. Negative representations of disease,
especially in the popular media can have a profound impact on lay-beliefs
and the meaning they give to such disease states when or if stricken with
them. Ambiguities inherent in lay language can be skillfully manipulated
by those who might have something to gain from so doing, bearing in mind
that those who seek power will hide behind carefully constructed
discourse. For instance,

"There are also cases where scarce medical resources are wasted on
human vegetables in whom the cerebral part of the brain is
dead.(Preventing death ruins the lives of families and friends)is a drain
on scarce hospital beds, nursing and other medical resources", Smoker

Smoker, B., (1991)"Remember the Non-Terminally Ill and Disabled".
Voluntary Euthanasia Society Newsletter, Sept 1991, p 10.

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

18 July 2003
Mary j Curtis
Head of Education & Training
Mount Edgcumbe Hospice PL26 6AB