Dr. Stephen Jones of Rockville, MD, calls me his patient. I like that word; it make me feel secure. Dr. Richard Selzer, the surgeon and writer, once told a Mayo Medical School graduating class that the word patient comes from the Latin pati, "to suffer," adding: "Doctors have patients. This is, above all, what distinguishes us from lawyers, who have clients . . . We have patients, and they suffer."

Clients suffer, too, at the hands of some lawyers, but the distinction is valid. In recent years, however, a dehumanizing note has crept into the medical language: patients have become health care consumers. Victor Cohen, the former Washington Post health columnist, was among the first to deride the trend toward calling doctors caregivers and healthcare [one word] producers; the new terms lump the MDs among less well-trained professionals.

The big word now is provider, which has taken care of caregiver.

Thanks to the info explosion, it's spreading. I used to be a writer. Now I'm a content provider. Don't laugh; it could happen to you.

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