- Dhruv Khullar, The Trouble With Medicine’s Metaphors (via thedauntlesschamberednautilus)
Over the centuries, we’ve internalized these military metaphors, so much so that we often may not recognize how they influence us. Even today, we “monitor for insidious disease,” “destroy rogue cells,” “search for silver bullets,” and “use all weapons at our disposal.” But when the purpose of treatment is not recovering from a cold, but living with cancer, should the military metaphor be retired?
Many patients may prefer not to view illness as a battle or conflict. Indeed, it seems strange that the language of healing remains so interwoven with the language of warfare, especially in the era of chronic disease, when many conditions are controlled and managed, not eradicated or annihilated.
By describing a treatment as a battle and a patient as a combatant, we set an inherently adversarial tone, and dichotomize outcomes into victory and defeat. Changes in medication regimens become setbacks or retreats, and transitions to palliative care mark the end of struggle, the battle lost. We subtly place an unfair burden on patient and doctor, when in reality, even the most courageous soldier guided by the most effective strategy is too often unsuccessful against an aggressive invader with nothing to lose."