I'm currently working on neologisms in medical terminology and there is a word 'unpatient' that's been a pain in the neck for me.

Here's the original source:

New terms giving names to new realities such as immunostain, drunkorexia, cyberchondria or unpatient (Navarro 2007) are frequent in medical texts and constitute one of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of medical translation (Montalt, forthcoming).

If there's anyone working with medical terminology, could you please explain what's the exact definition for 'unpatient' in this case?

I've also come across this website: http://unpatient.org/ but I'm still in doubts about how should I translate this word.

  • 1
    I've never heard of it. If it's a neologism, and what's more, a neologism in a particular field's jargon, it may have never taken off enough to have a well-defined or fixed meaning at all. – Dan Bron Jan 18 '17 at 12:38
  • 1
    'Unpatient' is apparently an obsolete form of 'impatient', but given the medical field and reference to neologisms, I'm guessing that isn't the meaning you are after. I think this is a jargon question rather than english usage. The website you link seeks to separate historic notions of paternalism and suffering associated with 'patient' from an updated model of an informed and empowered individual with control of their health data. So maybe it is riffing off the obsolete usage to convey non-passive patient-hood? – Spagirl Jan 18 '17 at 12:50
  • @Spagirl That's the same sense I got from that site, but it's not clear that site's usage is connected to the text the OP quotes. FWIW, I chased down the full citation to Navarro, 2007 (it was spelled out in the bibliography if the complete work, available in Google Books), and the word unpatient dies not appear. So it's not clear where the author of OP's work picked it up or what the original source meant by it. Given that, I'd say it's fair to dispense with it altogether. It doesn't need to be translated at all. It's a stillborn term. – Dan Bron Jan 18 '17 at 12:56
  • 1
    Here is the original Navarro reference in Panace, btw, and the relevant article excerpted from that journal as Minidiccionario critico de dudas. But, as I said, unpatient doesn't make an appearance in the work. – Dan Bron Jan 18 '17 at 12:59
  • From what little context you present, these are "nonce words" invented by various authors to describe medical/psychological conditions, and the author of your quote is complaining that, since they lack clear definitions, they are impossible to translate to other languages. (Actually, "immunostain" is a relatively old word, and the other two have "taken off" in current culture, but "unpatient" was left at the starting gate.) – Hot Licks Jan 18 '17 at 13:12

There appear to be two definitions floating about for the term, which are not identical, though may be thought to have some overlap. The first is from the source cited in the question, the second from www.nature.com


Term coined in 1996 by the group of bioethical US Albert R. Jonsen to refer to a persona currently healthy but genetically predisposed confirmed to a certain disease (p. eg., cancer breast or heart failure). It's not exactly a sick and need treatment, but neither considered completely free of disease and must undergo a close medical surveillance.
In Spanish, it has been proposed translation for 'pre-patient ', which can be used in the case of people who They receive no health benefit for its pre-genetic disposition; for those who must go periodically to the doctor, however, already true patients certainly is clearer translation type of 'presymptomatic patient'

(via google translate)

Unpatients—why patients should own their medical data

We have coined the term 'UnPatient' for our new model of data ownership as it has the double entendre of the patient subjected to medical paternalism and information asymmetries, along with the idea that it has taken far too long to become free to use our medical data as we see fit and to own it. Without connecting to their medical data, people are unnecessarily being hurt and dying.
Accordingly, we urgently seek to promote ownership of one's medical data as a civil right and as a pivotal strategy to further digitize medicine, providing a new resource to potentially help every individual who willingly participates. This is the essence of the benefits of democratization: shared control provides shared benefits at an exponential rate. When individuals inform the collective, and the collective informs the individual, we will have the learning health system we seek.

  • Also, from the About page of the unpatient.org site, linked to by the OP: "We are patient advocates who recognize that we are all patients at one time or another, even if we rarely want to be in that situation. The history of the word “patient” brings with it suffering and paternalism. We want people to be free of suffering and to be able to manage their health most effective way possible. We want to be free of suffering, and where possible, allow all people to improve their personal health and performance." – Arm the good guys in America Jan 18 '17 at 13:21
  • @Clare Cheers. I paraphrased that in comments on the question, but left it out of this answer as initially I was citing just an article whose authors claimed to have coined the term, which I thought took precedence. Now, however, it seems that definitions isn't exactly what was in the Navarro source cited in the question. – Spagirl Jan 18 '17 at 13:31
  • @ Spagirl ah, yes, I see that you did. How would you like me to proceed? It can delete my comment above and this response also... – Arm the good guys in America Jan 18 '17 at 13:35
  • @Clare Not at all, i think it's useful to leave it here as more rounding out. I wasn't meaning for you to change anything. I just worded that a bit tactlessly, no need to change a thing. – Spagirl Jan 18 '17 at 13:39
  • As you wish: I found your comment, as is your wont, to be tactlessless (tactless free). Maybe we can say untactless? – Arm the good guys in America Jan 18 '17 at 13:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.