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June 16, 1978

A Senile Concern With Terminal Mortality

JAMA. 1978;239(24):2549-2550. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280510033007

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To the Editor.—  I disagree with suggestions in two consecutive issues of The Journal that we drop two good, clear words and replace them with euphemisms. Howard Schatz, MD (239:190, 1978), suggests that we find a more comforting word to replace "senile," and in an editorial in the preceding issue (239:138, 1978), B. J. Kennedy, MD, recommends that physicians drop the ominous word "terminal." I find both of these recommendations distressing.Dr Schatz wants to replace the word "senile" with "aging" or "maturity." Dr Schatz's sentiment is a laudatory sympathy for those who grow old. This does not justify the replacement of an essential word, no matter what its connotation, with a circumlocution.The devitalization of our language with euphemisms is an attempt to evade reality. Senility exists. Some diseases and conditions are senile. I am 64 years old and near or at the age when my body will evidence

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