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January 10, 1977

Watch Your Language

JAMA. 1977;237(2):118-119. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270290018009

To the Editor.—  The essay by Blacher and Levine, "The Language of the Heart" (236:1699, 1976), could well be extended to physicians' failures to communicate appropriately and gently with patients about other organic disorders. A physician's ability to give patients understanding without fear is an essential part of the art of medicine. Terms and ideas about diseases need not always be replaced by euphemisms or coated thickly with sugar, providing the physician avoids jargon (Blacher and Levine cited "cabbage" for coronary artery bypass graft) and supplements difficult words with simple analogies or diagrams. On the latter point, readers are referred to an atlas1 that is an admirable guide to explanation by the kinds of drawings that any physician can use. I hope the book is still in print.