Medicine: Doctors' Jargon

Physicians have long used medical jargon to impress gullible laymen. As far back as the 13th century, the medieval physician Arnold of Villanova urged colleagues to seek refuge behind impressive-sounding language when they could not explain a patient's ailment. "Say that he has an obstruction of the liver," Arnold wrote, "and particularly use the word obstruction because [patients] do not understand what it means." Such deceptions may still occasionally be practiced on patients, but this does not account for the impenetrable prose in contemporary medical journals, which are read mostly by doctors....

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