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Opinion: Hospital needs a language detox

Published on

George Mathewson

The late, great comedian George Carlin was adept at skewering the way bureaucrats and marketers use weasel words to “soften” the language.

During the First World War, for example, a soldier stressed to the breaking point by combat horror would return suffering a condition called “shell shock.”

By the Second World War “shell shock” – a direct, honest description – had been replaced by “battle fatigue,” which sounds nicer but hides the truth, Carlin said.

Today, the same condition is called “post-traumatic stress disorder,” requiring eight syllables to say what “shell shock” did in two and fully burying the pain in bloodless jargon.

Euphemism lovers have likewise turned toilet paper into bathroom tissue, the dump into a landfill and the deaf into hearing impaired.

“When I was a little kid,” Carlin riffed, “if I got sick they wanted me to go to the hospital and see a doctor. Now they want me to go to a health maintenance organization, or a wellness center, to consult a healthcare delivery professional.”

Which brings us to Bluewater Health, whose PR department is exceedingly fond of euphemistic language.

In an April 17 news release issued following a stakeholder meeting, the hospital told the media to stop calling the 16-bed detox centre proposed for Sarnia a “detox centre.”

Why? Because the much-needed facility should be called – and I’m not making this up – a “mental health and addictions community hub.”

That muffled sound you hear is Carlin knocking on his coffin lid.

The hospital says calling the detox centre a detox centre “perpetuates a negative stereotype and does not accurately reflect the full scope of services.”

Apparently, it’s worried “detox centre” ignores the non-residential addiction services already in place, and more mental health counselling yet to come.

Fair enough, but “Bluewater Health” doesn’t describe everything that happens at the hospital either and we still call it Bluewater Health.

But negative stereotype?

Detox is the short form of detoxification, the process by which withdrawal symptoms are reduced or relieved in people with alcohol or drug dependencies. Surely that’s an apt description of the mandate.

Calling it “harm reduction” or “withdrawal management” doesn’t change the fact detoxification is a critical step for any addict overcoming addiction.

“Detox” is short, easily understood and perfectly acceptable English; despite what the language cops at Bluewater Health seem to feel.

But, I suspect it’s a lost cause. The bureaucrats will win. They have already nixed “Detox Centre” and will ignore the equally obvious “Addictions Centre” and call it something needlessly vague and complicated.

That way, when the facility opens, persons in need of withdrawal management support (addicts) may undergo assessment and facilitation (check in) at The Mental Health and Addictions Community Hub of Sarnia-Lambton (Detox Centre).




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