Common Medical Metaphors

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Metaphors are used heavily in literature to describe and attribute meaning towards otherwise hard to describe objects and situations, as well as make comparisons and create a certain image. Medical metaphors do the same to describe diseases in a way which the general public can understand, but they have an even deeper impact as well. A study conducted in 2010 found that physicians use metaphors in almost 66% of conversations that they have when describing serious illnesses to their patients, and that the use of these metaphors truly enhanced the physician's ability to communicate (Casarett, 2010). These metaphors are used in order to relate the patients new feelings about an illness to feelings they already understand. Common medical metaphors…show more content…
With a mortality rate of 90%, there is certain cause for concern. With its severe onset and progression, it is understandable that once a few cases of Ebola were known, media sources took advantage and started reporting on the disease. With these reports came many different types of metaphors trying to describe Ebola. While some metaphors make it easy to understand illnesses, others have unwanted social implications. An article from Mail and Guardian is a great example of how media outlets need to understand the importance of how we use langauge to depict diseases. The article states “Ebola is the Grim Reaper’s horseman, leaving death, fear, and ruin in his trail” (Onyango-Obbo, 2014). This specific language elicits many emotions in the reader - it creates panic and alarm, and is a fear-mongering tactic. The metaphor compares a disease to the epitome of death and destruction, the Grim Reaper. Because of this, those who read the article then relate their feelings towards the Grim Reaper and death, a known and understood feeling, towards Ebola, without having dealt with the disease at all. For many, reading these metaphors in news media outlets are the first and often only places they obtain information about the disease. if this is their first interaction with any description of Ebola, readers will automatically become scared and panicked without being educated. The metaphor implies that that anyone that Ebola is everywhere, leaving a trail of destruction and death, when in reality, there were only about 2 deaths total in the United States due to Ebola (Center for Disease Control, 2016). This type of fear-mongering language has many consequences. People suddenly become very sensitive to any sort of symptom, thinking that they may have Ebola. There is unnecessary allocation of governmental and national resources in an
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