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A Piece of My Mind
February 16, 2016

The Unreasonable Patient

Author Affiliations
  • 1Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center–Mercy Hospital; and UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
JAMA. 2016;315(7):657-658. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.17059

We live in a world full of labels.

Some are necessary—the labels on our food, the labels on our chemicals and our clothes. Others try to compartmentalize people based on their nature or beliefs, while still others serve no purpose but to inflame our sensibility. We live in a world so full of labels that there are labels for our labels: it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

The health care profession is no different. Labels on our prescriptions tell us about adverse effects; labels on our equipment tell us about cleanliness and sterility. A patient with Clostridium difficile colitis will, literally, have a label posted on his or her hospital door.