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Med jargon revisited
Medical encounters should be jargon-free

It is likely that some of your interactions with medics have left you wondering what it was that the doctors’ were saying. You probably went along with an incomprehensible discussion, tainted with medical jargon. Such mumbo jumbos have no place in modern healthcare. Every discussion with you as a lay person must always be simplified to crystal clarity. There is always a simple way of explaining your diagnosis, and treatment options.

Yes, doctors go through rigorous training, with lots of complex words and phrases to describe multitudes of diseases. But so does everyone one else in their own specific professions. If we all gathered together and conversed in career-specific technical terms, none of us would really understand the other. True, some medical terms have no direct equivalent translations to commonly used languages. But that’s never an excuse not to get stuff explained in an easy to understand manner.

You have many options to help decrypt medical jargon. The easiest one is to get your doctor to explain everything in simple language. If anything is mentioned in medical terminology, ask that it gets broken down into a comprehensible format. All it takes is a willingness to convey clear information, which you are owed when seeking medical care. You want to take in as much as you can to facilitate decision making. Ask for a leaflet that you could look up later, this backs up what might have escaped your ears.

You could of course access freely available online medical encyclopedias to look up what you haven’t really understood. Just simply searching for a medical word or phrase on your browser will bring up hundreds of hits. Be selective on the ones to read through. Wikipedia, Medipedia and information portals run by health organizations like the WHO should top your list. Explanations found on such sites tend to be simplified into an easily understandable way, and are usually free of medical jargon.

Your healthcare providers have a duty to get you to understand everything they say. If you find one bloated with medical jargon, it may be a telltale sign of their confidence or competent levels. Ask them politely to tone down and speak in common language. If they don’t budge, you could always play a trick card and ask if they could provide a medical translator. If that doesn’t go down well, you are better off seeing somebody else who cares to explain everything in plain language.

Never allow yourself to contend with undecipherable medical information in this day and age. It should all be plain and simple, always. Anything colored with some unintelligible jargon may be a mask for something else. If you can’t understand it, then you can’t really make informed medical decisions.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist. amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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