Edited By Maurizio Gotti, Stefania Maria Maci and Michele Sala
In this volume, medical communication is analyzed from various viewpoints: not only from a merely linguistic angle, with a focus on the description of the genres used in medical and healthcare contexts, but also from a social and cultural standpoint, with an emphasis both on the doctor-patient relationship and on the social relevance of the other types of communicative links existing between the many communities involved in this type of interaction.
The study of some of the main fields typical of medical communication has highlighted a considerable variety of themes, data and research methods which are clearly representative of the eclectic interest in this specific domain and of the wide range of approaches developed for its investigation.
As the various chapters show, linguistic analysis proves to be highly applicable to textualizations involving multiple interactions and practices, and several kinds of participants, including different healthcare professionals, trainees and patients.
‘Can you Read this Leaflet?’: User-friendliness of Patient Information Leaflets in the UK and in Italy
Notwithstanding the growth of electronically-mediated information, for many people the primary or only source of information about their medicine still remains the patient information leaflet (PIL).1 The PIL became a legal requirement in 1992 when “the European Commission issued Directive 92/27/EEC on the labeling of medicinal products for human use and on package leaflets” (Graham 2009: 5). As a result, since 1999 all medicines have been supplied with PILs to ensure their secure and effective use. The PIL contains information, in accordance with several legal regulations and standards, produced by the pharmaceutical company. The content and structure of the PIL should be legible, clear and easy to use – therefore it is a legally regulated genre (Askehave/Zethsen 2003) – and should reflect information contained in the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC).2
Like the PIL, the SPC is another document which is produced by the pharmaceutical company; the SPC is used to apply for marketing authorization with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Unlike the PIL, the SPC is an expert-to-expert text which contains information for healthcare professionals. Composed in English, the SPC uses technical ← 159 | 160 → terminology (Nisbeth Jensen/Zethsen 2012: 33). It provides the EMA with a full description of the medicine so that the agency can assess whether the medicine should be authorized. When a pharmaceutical company receives authorization, it produces the English-language PIL, which is intended for a general audience, based on the SPC, which was designed for experts. Considering that the PIL is written...
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