“we are all patients” … NOT #medx

One of the comments that was made, and repeated several times on the first day of the Medicine X Ed conference I attended last week was “we are all patients”.

This caused me to tweet out:

I had not really thought about the problem with this rhetoric before, but when I heard the statement I felt it. The emotional me recoiled at the statement. I felt that my experiences as someone who has undergone diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, and someone who is figuring out how to navigate hormone therapy and celiac disease, who has spent the better part of the last year and half attending to two or more healthcare related appointments each week, was discounted as “normal”. My experience was in no way unique or special. Saying that “we are all patients” is saying that the patient experience is something that is normal.

Carolyn Thomas of @heartsisters explains it well in her post: “We are all patients.” No you’re not.

What really struck me though, was that my response to the statement was an emotional one. It wasn’t rational Becky disagreeing with the statement. It was emotional Becky feeling like my experience as a patient had been silenced and discounted. That my story was no longer an important story to be told. I was no longer an epatient ‘expert’.

Of course, academic me knows better. Academic me heard it and saw a parallel to the ‘all lives matter’ argument that is sometimes used to silence the #blacklivesmatter movement. If you are not familiar with what is wrong with the ‘All lives matter’ argument, please read this great article by David Bedrick – What’s the Matter with ‘All Lives Matter’.  It is, perhaps, because I had read that article that I saw the parallel in what was happening at Medicine X Ed.

I’m kind of sad that my tweet didn’t get more favorites or retweets. I think it is important that we stop saying ‘we are all patients’ at medical conferences and within medical education. Unless you’ve experience critical/chronic illness, you cannot even begin to imagine what it means to be a patient.

  • Becky


  • This is such an important point. It seems that people think they are making common cause, without realising how they are excluding experience. or maybe they do realise and just don’t care…

  • I didn’t notice this being said at #medx Ed and I haven’t heard it said at all at the main conference, so maybe the person you heard saying it was not so familiar with #medx ethos. It’s not the kind of place where you make the ‘we are all patients’ kind of statement but I think your reminder is useful.

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