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Medical Latin (sort of)

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Medical Latin (sort of)

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:51 pm

A orthopedic surgeon friend of mine with a penchant for Latin asked me for help, but my Latin isn't good enough. Basically, he wants to give a Latin name (don't ask me why) to some sort of table that lists important things concerning the patients that are going to be operated (age, place of residence, handedness etc.). In English, it would be something like "Remarks/comments on the Patients to be Operated". He's proposing "De indice hominum operandorum" (which, according to him, means "[extracts] from the medical reports of patients to be operated" :shock: ), but I don't think that quite would do...

My modest proposal:

Annotationes de patientorum operandorum

Can you improve on this? Thanks for any assistance! I'm sure all the poor people with nasty fractures will be thankful as well.
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Re: Medical Latin (sort of)

Postby bedwere » Thu Mar 09, 2017 8:10 pm

De requires the ablative. At least

Annotationes de patientibus operandis.
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Re: Medical Latin (sort of)

Postby Timothée » Thu Mar 09, 2017 8:25 pm

One cannot use the verb operārī in the (modern) sense ‘to operate (on someone)’, but it has to be secāre ‘to cut’. “Remarks” could be obseruātiōnēs or notātiōnēs, and I’m given to understand (Georges) that they gladly take genitive.

“Patient” cannot be patiēns in Latin. What do we actually mean by “patient”? Someone who is ill, someone who is or has to be lying down, or someone who is recovering or getting better, healing or convalescing? On that depends the translation of “patient”. For example aeger, aegrōtāns or aegrōtus (the last mentioned may be best), all of these with connotation of being ill.

But patient may be unnecessary in Latin; one could say ‘of those to be cut’, or use the noun sectiō in (plural) genitive.
Last edited by Timothée on Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Medical Latin (sort of)

Postby mwh » Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:00 pm

Paul you should tell your friend not to be so silly. We are not living in the Middle Ages, and using Latin (bad Latin at that) is not well calculated to lead to improvement in patient care. Nurses know what’s meant by NPO without needing to know Latin. (As a patient who does know Latin I had to ask.) Perpetuation of antique terminology in a dead language may be defensible, in medicine as in law. Adding novelties to the stock is not.

Incidentally in English patients are not operated, they’re operated on.
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Re: Medical Latin (sort of)

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Mar 12, 2017 1:48 pm

Thanks for you replies, which unequivocally show that I was unqualified to answer my friend's question!

mwh, my friend has a very peculiar sense of humor. Let me assure you that he is being silly on purpose and has no intention to desist. This is tongue in cheek. A joke. You needn't worry about patient care improvement. :D Not everyone takes dead languages as seriously as we do on these boards. :P And while some doctors still take medical Latin seriously, that was the previous generation, not ours.

When we were studying, there was a humorous article once in the medical student gazette about the "Latin for medical students" course that had recently started – the point being that it was unethical to teach real Latin to medical students, because such teaching would threaten the century-long tradition of medical Latin (=execrably bad Latin). This age-old idiom of doctors was being threatened by schooling in the same way as "Western civilization" threatens many indigenous cultures and languages. (In Finland, the medical Latin tradition is mostly limited to diagnoses in medical reports – a practice that many, me included, have given up – e.g. "fractura humeri l.dx.", "distensio genu"; the quality of the Latin, as you may guess, is often atrocious. For some reason, the tradition seems particularly resistant in orthopedic surgery.)

Timothée, thanks for your observations. I don't think my friend is puristically aiming for Classical period Latin, Neolatin is probably just as good – given that, would you still think that "patiens" isn't ok?

Anyway, would some of these do?

Obseruationes hominum secandorum (Or, Obseruationes de hominibus secandis?)
Notationes hominum secandorum
De hominibus secandis

Or could we just substantivate secandus and drop out homo?

De secandis
Obseruationes secandorum
Obseruationes de secandis

What do you think?
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Re: Medical Latin (sort of)

Postby Timothée » Sun Mar 12, 2017 3:56 pm

I cannot approve patiēns. The medical sense first developed in the 14th century, in French as well as in English (the first citation in English in the OED is incidentally Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde). If something, patient has to be then aeger or aegrōtus in Latin. I cannot say that patiēns has never been used denoting ‘one who is under medical treatment’—in fact this seems quite likely—but I can’t recommend it.

And so that I don’t keep anything from you: I now noticed that operātiō has indeed been used in late medical Latin in the sense ‘operation’. Once again I don’t recommend it, but you are liable to find it in, say, 18th century medical texts written in Latin. But when there’s an ancient word for something or ancient turn of phrase in existence, surely it is to be used first and foremost.

Note also that in orthography I don’t disambiguate between u and v and i and j in Latin in accordance with the classical custom (followed by the OLD, for instance). I am given to understand that the letters U and J became general (i.e. in distinction from V and I, respectively) only in the 17th century. Therefore, to those who so wish, “observationes”.

Yes, it should be distentiō genūs, but I know that exactly was your point. Just pointing it out so that an unexpecting visitor won’t be misled.
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