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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Language

Two items in the New England Journal of Medicine (may not be available in full online) caught my eye:

A "Perspective" column in the 27th July issue (355:339-41) about the health effects of illiteracy. The column reports a patient who was not taking their medication properly, despite having it explained carefully (the physician thought) and having a note written for them. It was the medical student who suspected that the patient might not be able to read, and this proved to be the case. No one else out of the team of people who had met the patient had thought of this.

A
"Perspective" column in the issue for the 20th July (355:229-31) looks at language barriers to health care in the United States, focusing on the case of a 12 year old boy with Spanish as a first language and with little English. His mother, who described the symptoms, had no English. The physician had no Spanish. This obviously led to some confusion, and there are descriptions of other cases where inappropriate care was the result.

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