Academy of Chiropractic Personal Injury & Primary Spine Care Program
Quickie Consult 33 N
"Referring to the Patient as 'Patient'"
When writing a narrative, it is important to understand the perspective of the person that will be reading it and how he/she might spin it to his/her advantage. In court, defense lawyers are looking for every nuance to discredit you, your words and your opinion. One tactic that they can use is scrutinizing your choice of language and the utilization, or lack thereof, of the patient's name.
When referring to the patient, do so by name and not simply by "patient." Too many of us will say something like, "The patient complained of pain in the right upper extremity." It should read, "Mrs. Jones complained of pain in the right upper extremity." The argument by the defense lawyer, as has been my experience on the witness stand, is that this was a cookie-cutter report and not customized for this specific patient. If there are many references without the patient's name, a judge could agree and rule for the defense, negating your opinion. By the way, this has happened to me in the past. A rookie mistake I will not make again and neither should you.
Does this mean that referring to the patient as "patient" is a wrong thing to do? The short answer is no. It is not wrong nor improper. However, you leave yourself exposed to a possible line of questioning that can discredit you as an expert. It is the small things that lend themselves to showing how you are expert.