Monday, 4 May 2009

I'm afraid, Mrs Bloggs, that your husband has underwent a mortality event.

Accompanying the hysteria surrounding swine flu, I have noticed a particularly insidious piece of jargon, which, if it is does not yet constitute an epidemic amongst health professionals, is certainly rapidly becoming endemic.

Rather than refer to the risk of death which the disease might pose, experts keep discussing the possibility of it precipitating a ‘mortality event’. A more obfuscating piece of doublespeak it is difficult to imagine. Could any phrase more neatly epitomise a living example of the type of English which George Orwell excoriated in his essays and satirised in his fiction?

Doctors are already notorious for dancing around the truth. For many years it was established procedure to refer to all manner of ‘growths’ rather than tell a patient he or she had cancer. Sometimes, I imagine, it is beneficial to speak in language which only the initiated can interpret. But in a public debate about the possible effects of a disease, in which any sense of proportion has long since been lost, can’t we, for the sake of clarity, have the truth in plain English!

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