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    Political correctness’ collateral damage in healthcare


    I asked if she was a pharmacist or a slave to her chain pharmacy policy. She then informed me of her definition of a slave and made reference to her personal background, “Slaves aren’t paid. I’m a paid pharmacist who is African-American,” and lectured me on her morals, ethics and that use of the word slave was personal insult to her. I politely allowed her to finish, despite feeling frustrated about her lecture. I told her that I was Jewish and my people were slaves for hundreds of years, long before her people were. I then moved the conversation back to the patient’s urgent medication needs. Fortunately, she also returned to the topic at hand. 

    The current fad in the United States is political correctness (PC). It has been promulgated by the national media and federal government in Washington, D.C., by political movements; potentially for use as a weapon for their goals. Political correctness is defined as, “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. PC is subject to change and whim. It further limits the capacity and ability for individuals to communicate effectively.


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    Physicians should be the healthcare leaders, from the exam room to the halls of Congress. Although we should be sensitive to the concerns of others, we must hold steadfast to truth and accurate use of words. John Lydgate said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

    We as individuals, patients, physicians, etc., must all be reasonable about our use of speech. We should assume fellow professionals and others have valid information to communicate. The default shouldn’t be assumed to be a personal insult as is the case in a “bad marriage.”

    PC is the enemy of a free society and cannot be permitted to interfere in our healthcare or any other aspects of our lives. 


    Craig M. Wax, DO
    The author is a family physician in Mullica Hill, NJ.


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