RE: The Health Care System as a Dysfunctional Family

Lawrence A. Dunegan, MD
Article Type: 
May/June 1999
Volume Number: 
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Dr. John Sonne's article, "The Health Care System as a Dysfunctional Family" (Medical Sentinel, Vol. 4, No. 1), was right on target. Among the many cogent ideas he expressed was the importance of recognizing the misuse of words, and the subtle alteration in thinking which results therefrom. I would like to bring attention to additional examples of the misuse of words serving to alter people's perceptions of themselves and their relationships with others.

First is "the nation's children." The nation has no children. Only parents have children. While children live in a nation, they are not possessions of the nation. This term should be challenged wherever it appears.

Another is "national health." There is no such thing as national health. Only individuals enjoy health, or suffer from lack of it.

Most offensive is "human resources." This term has replaced "employee" and "personnel." Employee conveys the idea of a human relationship between an employee and an employer. Personnel implies recognition that the people concern are persons. Human resources reduces people to a status of expendability. After all, resources are developed for the purpose of being expended. The U.S. Senate even has a Committee of Labor and Human Resources.

"Workforce," a term now being used in connection with schooling (not to be mistaken for educational), implies organization under central planning and control, replacing individual self-determination.

The more we get used to hearing and accepting the use of given terminology, the more our thoughts and attitudes succumb to the subtle implications of those terms, without our recognizing that change has been brought about in us. Do not use, do not accept destructive terminology.

Lawrence A. Dunegan, MD
Pittsburgh, PA

[An excellent description and explanation of changes in the language for political purposes is, of course, found in George Orwell's prophetic classic 1984. I'd like to suggest that interested readers re-read this classic as I've done, paying careful attention to Orwell's explanation for alterations in language and the quest for the "final" and 11th edition of Oceania's Newspeak Dictionary. ---Editor.]

Correspondence originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1999;4(3);77-81. Copyright©1999 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

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