How Do You Feel About the Word “COPDer”?

Last updated: November 2022

At my work, we often refer to our COPD patients as “COPDers.” It seems to be a term that is often used, at least by people who work in health care.

But is this a proper term for us to be using? That is the question I’d like to delve into today, and I’d like to know what you think. 

What is a COPDer?

COPDer: (plural- COPDers) One who suffers from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Allow me to use COPDer in a few sentences.

“I know lots of great COPDers.”
“COPDers, like asthmatics and other chronic lungers, learn to cope with their disease.”

I first heard the term (COPD) in respiratory therapy school in 1995. Since 1997 I have worked as a respiratory therapist (RT) in a hospital. We RTs often refer to our COPD patients as COPDers.

Why do we use this term? The origin of the term is unknown.

Even my patients refer to themselves that way. One patient recently told me, "I have many COPDer friends.” 

I see that there are even books that use the term in the title, such as “COPD: From A COPDers perspective.” The patient, the editor, and the publisher approved this title. 

As I search our community, I see that the term COPDer is used by various contributors, many of whom are living with COPD. 

So, it must be an appropriate term to use, right?

I was talking to my 12-year-old this morning. I asked him what you would call a COPD patient. I explained that we refer to people with asthma as asthmatics.

So, what should we refer to a person with COPD as? He said, “What is COPD?” 

This a logical question from a young person. I said, “It’s an acronym for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a disease that affects the lungs of people usually 40 and older.” 

To this, he said, “Oh, then it’s easy: I’d refer to them as “copped.” So, that’s the perspective of a 12-year-old. If it were up to him, people with COPD would be called “copped.” Perhaps we could shorten this to “cops.” 

What did my old publisher think? I am a sensitive person. I want to make sure terms I use terms and phrases in my writing that are well-received by my audience.

Is this term offensive to those with COPD?

So, when I started writing for my first COPD community, I talked to my publisher about this topic. I said, “Is the term COPD an acceptable term to use?”

She said, “Yes. If it is a term commonly used in the medical community, then it is okay to use in this community.” So, there you go. I received permission to use the term. 

However, I rarely use it. Although there are times it’s a fitting term, I think. 

Why did I stop using the term COPDer? I have been writing in this community for seven years. There was a discussion in one of our Facebook threads about using this term.

The consensus of those involved in the discussion was: “That is such an offensive term.”

So, is it? Is COPDer an offensive term? Or is it an appropriate term worthy of using in the right situations?

Please let us know in the comments below. 

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