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On the term "patient"

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How we use the term "patient"

At Patients Canada we use the word "patient" as a marker.

We mean it to be an all-encompassing term to include not only patients, but also other people with health conditions, and those close to them as caregivers and family members.

Why we use the term

We believe that the word "patient" is ok to use once we understand it in this all-inclusive way.

We think struggling over the term separates those concerned with the place of patients in healthcare from each other.  It makes it harder for us to work together  - and that, after all, is what most of us really want to do.

The discussion over other options

We recognize that there is a great deal of discussion around the term "patient" and that many people prefer not to be called "patients".

For example:

  • Many people with long term chronic conditions prefer to be referred to as "people with ....." and then the name of the particular condition. "People with diabetes" for example are perfectly healthy and calling them "patients" makes it appear that they are always sick.  
  • Others prefer to be called "persons" who are receiving health care.
  • And yet others actually think of themselves as "consumers", "clients,"  "customers," etc.
  • People who are in long term care are called everything from "residents" to "clients" to "tenants."

So in the same spirit of accommodation, we go back to the use of the word "patient" as a relatively undefined marker to be as inclusive as possible.

At the same time we do think these other terms display aspects of how we all want to be treated in healthcare -- with the common courtesy that customers receive in good shops -- with the respect for "clients" that professionals like lawyers have -- with the rights that people have as "tenants" and so on.

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