April 24th, 2011
Paul Krugman recently raised the question of where the capitalist term “consumer” started being used for medical patients and discussed the pernicious effects this usage has on healthcare:
Here’s my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough.
What has gone wrong with us?
On his blog today he answers the origins question:
Rashi Fein directs me to a paper he published in 1982, which begins
A new language is infecting the culture of American medicine. It is the language of the marketplace, of the tradesman, and of the cost accountant. It is a language that depersonalizes both patients and physicians and describes medical care as just another commodity. It is a language that is dangerous.
Alas, I can’t find a publicly available copy of the Fein paper.