Pragmatics in Clinical Communication


In all language, there may be a gap between what is said and what is understood. In medical communication, these often-unnoticed misunderstandings have serious consequence for ethics or practice of clinical care. This team aims to create a multi- institutional collaboration specifically analyzing the multi-faceted use of the word “treatable” around oncology patients in intensive care units (where care is often shared between a critical care doctor and an oncologist – either surgical, medical, and/or radiation). By conducting this interdisciplinary and collaborative research, they hope to establish a rigorous methodology for researching the pragmatics of clinical communication: how context impacts the action of words. By combining anthropological methods, linguistic analysis, and a bioethics lens, they are hopeful that their interdisciplinary collaboration will establish a new research field on clinical communication that is generative of practical and actionable recommendations and applicable to research regarding communication between niche-language-users in fields outside of medicine.

Image: Doctor Greeting Patient, by Vic. Creative Commons via Flickr