Clinical practice: should you get a foreigner to say it for you?

Being able to break things gently to a patient is one of the hallmarks of a good doctor. However, there are times in clinical practice when you need to quit beating about the bush.

When that happens, recent research suggests you may be better off speaking in a language other than your mother tongue.

Psychologists at the University of Chicago looked at why people who were speaking a foreign language found it easier to make tough utilitarian decisions, such as pushing someone in front of a train to save five others, according to an article in Science Daily.

“We discovered that people using a foreign language were not any more concerned with maximising the greater good, but rather were less averse to violating the taboos that can interfere with making utility-maximising choices ” said lead author Sayuri Hayakawa.

Importantly, the authors believe that differences in medical decision making might be down to the language you use. Just as importantly, no train travellers were killed during the research.

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