[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
March 1987

Semantics: Compliance Is a Better Term Than Cooperation

Author Affiliations

Gainesville, Fla

Arch Ophthalmol. 1987;105(3):314-315. doi:10.1001/archopht.1987.01060030028008

To the Editor.  —I would like to take exception to Dr Muirhead's1 advice to term patients who do not follow our instructions "uncooperative"rather than "non compliant." Children may certainly be uncooperative, but for adults the situation is different.Dr Muirhead is concerned because his dictionary says "compliant" means "a tendency to yield readily to others, especially in a weak and subservient way." My American Heritage Dictionary says that the meaning of compliant as "obedient or subservient" is a secondary and obsolete definition. The dictionary prefers "to act in accordance with a command, request, rule or the like [emphasis added]."Perhaps more importantly, the use of the word uncooperative is judgmental of the character of the patient. It is not our job as physicians to judge the character of our patients. In fact, we are frequently admonished to avoid placing any judgmental statements in our medical records. Compliant (or