[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Special Communication
June 30, 1978

Healthy Respect for the Word

Author Affiliations

From Norwich Hospital, Norwich, Conn.

JAMA. 1978;239(26):2776-2777. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280530040019

Here we are, physicians Prescribing from our shelves Devising our scenarios Writing out ourselves Here we are, plain patients Part of your daily rounds Sifting every utterance Hanging on your sounds.

THE PHYSICIAN treats with words; within the physician-patient social system, the patient is moved by fears and other sentiments, and these are modified by the physician's words and phrases.1 Physicians dispense not only medicines but words that influence medicines or, all by themselves, that affect the patient more than the medicine.2

Physicians use words in various ways. They use them as tools to uncover diagnosis and as vessels to carry treatment and caring. As the physician explores the human condition, his English may be more meaningful than his biology or neurology.

Does the physician listen to his own words as carefully as those of the patient? Does he seek the best word, the best phrase, or the