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With the changing face of medical practice in terms of rights, some have argued that the person seen by medical doctors should no longer be called patients on the grounds that it connotes that the relationship is not equal. 

The word patient originates from the Latin word "pateins" and means to suffer or bear and connotes suffering. This meaning probably sits well with ancient times where the doctor was more or less authoritarian, with his god-like image. The patient would therefore be expected to wait patiently until seen no matter how long, would obey instructions from the doctor or nurse without question, would accept the outcome of his treatment even if unsuccessful, and not go to court. Many of these still happen today but many argue that the dynamics have changed in modern times and so the advent of human rights and patient's rights has meant that the patient is no longer a passive participant in his or her treatment but is now active. 

Today, it is expected that the patient has to be carried along in his or her own treatment and will be involved in decision-making. It is expected that the doctor should communicate the pros and cons of any treatment and educate the patient on alternatives. The patient can now complain and even sue the doctor, whuch would probably unthinkable when the word was first coined for usage when referring to healthcare users. So the argument is that the word 'patient' in its original meaning contradicts modern role of the person referred to; and so it should be changed. Is this agreed? 

On the other hand, some will argue that just as a client expects that he or she seeks the services of a lawyer because the lawyer has superior knowledge to him or her so also the reason for seeing the doctor is for the superior knowledge that the docor has. So is the relatiosnhip equal really? Again is the arguemnt for changing the name really necessary? Does the name not confer responsibility on the doctor being that he or she therefore feels compelled to end the patient's suffering? Therefore the word has another side; the doctor. The attitude of the doctor is probably not tied to the fact that the user is called a patient. Seeking a change suggests that some consider it derogatory, or stigmatizing, but that is probably less a result of the name but rather more due to the process, afterall how many even know the origin of the word? 

Also, has the meaning of the word not really changed with modernization. Today every right-thinking and up-to-date doctor knows that the patient plays an active role. Ignore that at your own peril. To do so could have medico-legal implications today.

One challeneg that changing the nomenclature will bring is that of finding a better alternative; one without negative connotation. Possible options include 'user', or 'client' or 'consumer'. User may be in keeping with the modern active participation but itself may imply that the person regularly attends or depletes. Also it does not appreciate the fact that some consultations are not really usages such as when all that is discussed is lifestyle changes rather than use of medication. 

Consumer falls into the same reasoning as user. Client is probably more appealing.

The real questions in the end would be, will a change in name lead to an improvement? Will a new name be universally accepted?  

There is a saying: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

 


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