a patient by any other name

Patient, client, consumer – which term do you prefer and why? What difference does it make? Who cares? Well, sit down and let’s take a look.


In the never ending dialectic about labels, I’m firmly on the side of labels. My reason is as simple as this; I want semantic precision in formal contexts. The rest of the time, idgaf. Applying the concept of common usage definitions, this is how I (subjectively, obviously) see things:

Patient: doctors treat patients.
Client: person hires doctor.
Consumer: person is part of the target market for medical services.

(All of those words do the job in one way or another, they could all be called precise, the rest is opinion – and all opinions are valid, no matter what one thinks of them.)

Another of my opinions where identity politics are concerned, is that everyone’s free to choose and use their own labels. Following that logic, doctors can call us whatever they want to, or ask us what we’d like to be called and then respect that wish. Articles and op-ed pieces online seem to be arguing for one specific yet blanket term; I’m not sure why that even matters. Is it because they need something to print on documents? When the letterhead belongs to a medical professional and the subject at hand is something along the lines of ‘treatment’, it seems incredibly simple to me. The official/printed stuff is the doctor or whatever, the rest refers to the person being treated, which makes the need for one and only one label even sillier.

“Many years ago, I heard a psychiatric colleague quip, “The only people who have clients are lawyers and hookers!” Depending on your point of view, he was being grossly unfair to either lawyers or hookers.” Why Doctors Don’t Have Clients

Apart from the fact that autocorrect wanted the word to be ‘hoovers’, it’s ironic that commentary about how to label people-seeking-help-from-the-medical-profession, blithely uses the word ‘hookers’, ignoring the most respectful term, ‘sex workers’. And it’s bullshit, utter bullshit. Someone’s charging money, someone’s paying it – say ‘clients’ if you want.

The following argument for sticking with the word ‘patient’ is as valid as any other, but it expresses my own opinion perfectly.

“The more we use these commercial terms to refer to intimate and personal care, the more that care becomes commercial and impersonal. Such is the power of language.” Dr Barry L. Farkas

I don’t have an issue with being called a client, but ‘consumer’? To me it’s the most commercial of commercial words. It makes me think of Oprah’s Xmas show audience, screaming for trinkets. It puts me in mind of Pac Man and of unhappy people wearing their cars like cloaks while they make their way around drive-through takeaway franchises, ashamed and hiding. That’s not a rational response though; it’s a disproportionate one too and I’m happy to admit it. I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life in Britain throughout my life and been treated (mostly poorly) by the NHS. They use ‘consumer’ and ‘service provider’ and then proceed to fail their consumers mightily. Fuck them and their spin. I don’t want to see some nebulous service provider thanks, I want to see whichever kind of doctor I need to see.


Patient, client, consumer… I think there’s valid argument for throwing the word ‘victim’ into the mix too, but leaving aside the obvious topic of cruelty and malpractice, there’s a concept that wasn’t mentioned in any of the articles I read about this stuff, and that’s the god complex. No wait, title case works better for that, the God Complex (A god complex is an unshakable belief characterized by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege, or infallibility source). What the hell does it matter what they call us, when the relationship is that unequal anyway? Which term describes the act of paying a professional for their services best? That needs to be factored in to the whole debate as well. The medical God complex, as it exists now, and as rife as it is, requires the patient/client/consumer/customer to be a supplicant (a person who asks for something in a respectful way from a powerful person or God. source). If we (society) continue to allow it to continue, the doctor’s surgery is a church and payments are offerings. You don’t have to be religious to see how ludicrous that is. Doctors can bristle with as many delusions of grandeur as they please, but we absolutely do not have to worship at that altar. Or as I like to say, fuck that.

Now open wide and say aaaaaaaamen.

I think that the following quote sums it all up well, and I’m glad it comes from the psychiatric profession. Or should that be service provider or vendor or something?

“Simply use the term that the person whom you are addressing with is most comfortable with. You might discuss a “client” with a therapist, speak about a “consumer” with a mental health board, and still be able to refer a “patient” to another physician.”

Simple, right? And if all else fails, you can always try referring to people by their names.”

Patient’ Vs. ‘Client’: How Semantics Influences the Practice of Psychiatry

I also refuse to call them Doctor while they use my first name. My psychiatrist is cool with that.


Disclaimer: this post accurately represents the opinion of the writer, the blog owner and the writer/blog owner’s dog, who recommends saying to your doctor, “I pay you, you are my bitch. You can call me sir.”


Published by


battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

35 thoughts on “a patient by any other name”

        1. I have an irrational dislike of the word ‘furkids’, fucknose why. That whole “don’t call them pets” bs was apparently because we should treat pets (oops) like equals. Uh. No. Treat em with respect, yes, but ain’t nodoggy in my life being undisciplined and chaotic.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. To be contrary I will say that here, where I live, “consumer” is the accepted politically correct term. As people requiring/seeking mental health services, we are not the target market… our psychiatrists who are courted by drug companies are the targets. We are too often the butt end. But if you flip the term and take control, you have the right to be an informed consumer. That may mean demanding and engaging in public services, hiring private services or arguing for a better balance of the two. If you grant the term “consumer” power, you can own it. Unfortunately, in your situation, you are forced to hire your services and fortunate enough to be able to do so if you don’t eat or “consume” too much else in any given month. I cannot purchase psychiatric services. Purchased services that do exist are strictly for the “meatloaf incidents” of the worried well, not the comprehensive support required by someone living with a chronic condition as I learned to my disadvantage last year. I have paid for counseling for personal issues, but my mental health deserves public care in this country. However, since drugs are not paid for, I have to be engaged and respected in my decision to “consume” (or not) the medications thus prescribed.

    Whew! I’ll have to come back so we can hash this out properly. Over pizza.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your taxes purchase psychiatrists… As for the rest, I honestly think one term’s as valid as the next (but you know me, I never run out of opinions of my own). I agree about drug companies, of course I do, was just looking at the doctor/patient thing. I think all of the terms can be owned, the way you own moffie and I own butch ;D The thing I agree with you most on, is the pizza thing, you and I need to exchange a few canadian/south african experiences :D

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like patient. When I’m a client I am looking for services for something I actually want and (or) look forward to. Being treated isn’t a service I actually want, even when I technically “want it.”

    So if a doctor calls me a client I kick them in the balls. Even though clients, generally, get FAR more respect than patients.

    If they called me a consumer (and boy do I “consume” their load of bullshit) I would set their whole place on fire. BRB summoning a demon just in case.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Okay, forgive me for posting this here and you can delete once you see it if you must….but I think you should leave it!

    Here’s the Twitter exchange & it’s good stuff: Everything about you below was retweeted by Joel, Master of Bipolar Blogs, to his thousands of followers! He’s cool.

    4h: @Bipolar_BlogsI read a TON of bipolar-themed blogs, & Blahpolar Diaries is my #1. @EmperorNorton & @KittOMalley are a close 2nd.

    13m: @KittOMalley @Bipolar_Blogs @EmperorNorton Dyane wrote:
    Her linkdumps are extraordinary! I always find several articles I MUST read!

    Bipolar Blogs retweeted you
    Kitt wrote, “13m: @birthofnewbrain @Bipolar_Blogs @EmperorNorton I lack the snark and linkdumps.


    Bipolar Blogs retweeted some Tweets you were mentioned in
    8m: @birthofnewbrain @Bipolar_Blogs @EmperorNorton I agree.
    (Kitt tweeted this and she’s the smart one sine she included an actual link to your blog, unlike yours truly – DUH!!!)
    Blahpolar’s linkdumps rock at http://bipolardyke.wordpress.com

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow…. And more wow… Also, wow. That’s so freaking lovely to hear, and thank you Dyane Toilet-Humour-Leishin-Harwood for making it happen :)

      Um, I’m oblivious as usual (you and Kitt promote this blog way more than I ever do, and blog bless you both for it), what’s bipolar blogs? *looks embarrassed*

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How about DTHLH for short?

        Bipolar Blogs is run by Joel Sax, & you would appreciate the shitloads of bipolar-related tweets he oversees. The Bipolar Blogs Twitter feed is like a version of your linkdumps without the humorous (or sometimes not so silly) italics….Joel also has his own blog Pax Nortona (voted as a Healthline Best Blog – I think Bipolar Blogs was voted a Best Blog too!) to learn more about this man with a heart of gold, and who doesn’t always feel understood (or appreciated) by people! If you went by his latest blog post & said hola, I bet he’d really appreciate it.


        Liked by 2 people

  4. I hate the term consumer with a fiery and intense passion. I’m not consuming mental health services. I’m not even nibbling on them slightly. Mainly because they’re not edible and/or all that tasty.

    I much prefer the term patient, because that’s what you have to be with some of the idiots who work for mental health services.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “RAY! If someone asks if you are a God. Say YES!” Ghost Busters / Bill Murray

    Supplicant seems to apply with the therapist my younger daughter and I are seeing.

    We’s just two supplicants to add to her narcissistic supply.

    Annie …non LOL on this one…wish I were kidding. ..sigh..


  6. Ok I will admit it. …Ghost Busters is my favorite movie. There ! I’ve said it !

    Do I need to see a… “Brain Health Practitioner” … about that… or an… Alien Transgender Goddess with a bad haircut?


  7. Semantic politics aside, I consider myself a patient to my psychiatrist, as I am to all other medical specialists and generalists I see; a client of psychotherapists, be they masters level or PhDs; and, I literally consume medication.

    Liked by 1 person

comment or the dragon will toast you

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s