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Editor's Correspondence
September 12, 2009

Life Prolonging in Name Only?—Reply

Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(16):1540-1541. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.274

In reply

We believe that Dr Workman makes an important point in highlighting the significance of language in clinical communications, particularly those occurring at the end of life. Like Pantilat,1 we agree that the choice of words used to describe treatments matters. Word selection may strongly influence the medical choices that patients and their physicians make. Patients who decline “life-sustaining” medical care may believe that they are opting for death, while family members who agree to “withdraw care” may feel that their decision caused the death of a loved one, instead of the disease. The terms used to describe treatments may create unnecessary ethical and psychological conflicts for patients and their family members.