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There are no ‘clients’ in the doctor-patient relationship

Vol. 8, No. 10 / October 2009

I read with amusement Dr. Nasrallah’s August editorial, and certainly agree with most of his points of “ventilation” (“Let me tell you how I feel…” From the Editor, Current Psychiatry, August 2009). In regard to relabeling patients as “clients,” I think this is an encroachment on our profession by therapists (eg, MSW, LISWs, RNs, PhDs, and PsyDs).

I do not feel that anyone that I prescribe medications to is a “client.” These individuals are patients and always will be. I suspect the term “client” comes from those without prescribing privileges and only serves to erode our profession, much like wearing suits or street clothes instead of white lab coats, which is Dr. Nasrallah’s third point.

I also am a practicing pediatrician, and I can assure you that there is a slow attempt by nurses and practice managers to turn pediatric patients into “clients” as well. The same trend away from white lab coats is now being seen in primary care, which I feel is eroding the doctor-patient relationship.

In my opinion, you can be my client if I never prescribe you medicine. Until then, you’re my patient. To date, I have only 2 “clients,” but a slew of patients.

Paul Trombley, MD, FAAP
Cleveland Heights, OH

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