Re: NPR story on medicine labeling
Abby Klemmer wrote:
> I heard this story on NPR this morning and thought it was interesting from
> a technical writing perspective. Prescription medicine labels and
> instructions are frequently vague, to the point of people making serious
I heard the same story, but I came away from it with a different lesson.
At the end, we're told to go to the NPR site for a list of five
questions we should ask every time we're given a prescription. Earlier
in the story, various healthcare professionals (doctors, pharmacists)
emphasize that any errors in taking medications are the patient's fault.
What I heard was a complete disconnect from reality. It seems to me that
if there are five questions we should ask every time a med is
prescribed, then maybe it behooves the doctor and pharmacist to provide
that information in the first place instead of waiting for the minority
of informed patients to ask.
While I understand where you're coming from, I can see a situation
where there are 'five answers' then 'five more answers' and 'five
more' and then so much information that many patients never reads the
inserts or instructions. Oh, wait - that's how it is now ;-) (Of
course there are nuts like me who read the inserts religiously, but
just because they make such great bathroom reading. And then they
scare the willies out of me.)
The honest truth is that we can't treat our bodies like our cars and
just turn them over to someone else to care for (I'm not even sure we
should do that with out cars). We -do- have to know enough to ask the
right questions. Relying on others will always lead to trouble, unless
those others are family or friends who care enough about us to act on
And it also seems to me that blaming
patients for medication errors gets it backwards. Target has the right
idea, as does the guy who looked at warning labels; the other doctors
and pharmacy academics quoted have it wrong because they see patients as
their subordinates, not their customers.
I agree with this sentiment, and I do agree that those DOING the
labeling and selling should be more proactive in giving information to
the patients. BUT I don't think that means that people should still
not ultimately take responsibility for making sure they medicate
Same goes for any sort of manual/customer relation. The manual
*should* have it right, but that doesn't absolve the customer of the
need to think.
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