Definitions of disease rely not only on pathophysiology, but also on social and cultural norms. How physicians use their authority to label patients' conditions affects how symptoms are understood and addressed, whether and to what extent treatments are reimbursed, and patterns of empathy expression towards affected individuals. Contrasts between concepts such as disease and health, illness and wellness, normal and deviant, natural and unnatural, each suggest that medicine's exercise of the power to name is often imperfect and always ethically relevant.
Whether conditions are recognized as pathological can influence how symptoms get addressed and how treatments get reimbursed. When we choose to call something a disease, even our expressions of empathy towards individual patients can change.
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Trafficking-specific ICD-10-CM codes account for physical, social, and psychological dimensions of trafficked patients’ experiences. Data collected by clinicians can also motivate improvements in health policy, resource allocation, and prevention.
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Iris G. Insogna, MD, MBE and Elizabeth S. Ginsburg, MD
Although the World Health Organization defines infertility as a disease, insurance coverage gaps generate disparities in access to care and treatment, especially for tubal factor infertility and oncofertility.
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Professional society guidelines can be used to set standards for clinical practice instead of government. This approach could help if federal or state policymakers view discarding embryos as ethically equivalent to abortion.
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Childbirth in hospitals settings is considered by some to be medicalized and not natural. When medicalization is associated with loss of autonomy and control, clinicians should be aware of how they express respect for women during in-hospital births.
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Clinicians can practice disability humility by developing social understandings of disability. This can help clinicians improve communication and express respect for patients’ authority about their experiences.
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Dichotomies, such as reconstructive vs aesthetic surgery and medical vs cosmetic dermatology, can distort meanings of surgical procedures. This can compromise the value of procedures themselves and practices for their reimbursement.
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Clinicians tend to view obesity as a disease, while members of the body positivity movement value their bodies as they are. Should clinicians treat obesity as a disease in patients who don’t see themselves as ill?
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The American Medical Association named alcoholism and addiction as illnesses during the 20th century. Obesity, smoking, and motor vehicle safety were also named as public health issues and targeted in poster advertising campaigns.
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Identifying patients who are trafficked is key to caring well for these vulnerable adults and children. But labeling patients as trafficked can stigmatize patients if clinicians aren’t trained well in trauma-informed care.
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Labels commonly used in clinical settings, like “elective” or “therapeutic,” influence how we think about the justifiability of abortion. We talk with Professor Katie Watson and Dr Maryl Sackeim about how the language clinicians use to describe abortion can affect patients’ experiences and even cause harm.
Is it ethical to prescribe antipsychotics to patients without revealing the drug’s purpose or a diagnosis?
The term “elective” should be used to characterize some abortions because