No One Wins When We Police Fight Terminology in Health Care

When we police a patient’s right to use fight terminology in health care, everyone loses from the absence of  their story.

When we police a person’s right to use fight terminology, everyone in healthcare loses from the absence of their story.

Articles and tweets advocating for the death of fight terminology in health care’s lexicon frequently pop into my social media feed. I understand this position. My heart bristles at the sound of the phrase “lost their battle.” Knowing what I do about pain and illness, I believe my friends and family’s deaths were not a capitulation, but an exit. Maybe you feel the same.


I also know this: In the fight for health, there is not a winner and loser, but there are many battles. To deny a person’s right to say this diminishes their truth. It’s also privileged and c

alloused thing to demand a fellow patient to edit their experience. (It’s jarring to see words like “privileged” alongside “illness.” Modern media would have us believe the inspiration fairy  bestowed us an extra dose humanity because of our illness and disability.) Centering yourself and your belief’s into someone else’s is wrong.


We are united by the unknown of illness. Some of us must watch our loved ones slowly die (or fear facing the same fate) because we can’t afford health care. Others remember holding in rage in a meeting with heads of the largest insurance companies to do right by everyone and us. Some have to leap to floors, even as we ache from cancer or arthritis, because they lived in war zones or dangerous neighborhoods. More patients than we realize walk into doctors’ offices scared of receiving poor care because of because they are a person of color, because of their sexuality or because they are transgender.


Some of us are tired of ringing the alarm bell and hearing silence, or worse, demands to censor our story. It is a fight. These three words don’t diminish your experience. It amplifies your experience by adding a perspective of health which isn’t yours. When the health care community considers the all of the public in public health, everyone wins.


We are human beings with rights to opinions. If your opinion is that we should strike fight terminology from your health care lexicon, the offending words will not come up in our conversations, at least not on purpose. It is disrespectful and dangerous for someone to silence voices in a health care, a community that needs them all.


We can always correct and educate someone who believes there are “wins and  losses” in illness. When we police a person’s right to use fight terminology, everyone in health care loses from the absence of their story. The ironic thing is every time someone scolds me for using fight terminology, fellow health advocates enter my social circle and counter with their experiences. We can learn so much from each other. Offending words, and goodness knows what else, keeps us part.


What a loss.

About Dawn S. Smith

Dawn S, Smith is the writer of the critically-acclaimed chroreoplay "Sunshine for a Midnight Weary," books, articles and business copy. She is surviving brain tumor in the key of Beyonce and a warrior for health equity. Atlanta is where UGA, Grady graduate was born and raised..Kentucky is where she spends most of her days.

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