“Birth defect”. You won’t find this word anywhere on our site except in this article. Some of you may be wondering why. There is a good reason I promise.
The reason that the term “birth defect” is not used on our website is because of its negative connotation and interpretation. This term implies that individuals who are born with the conditions grouped under “birth defects” are defective. This is simply not true and reflects a dated understanding of our condition. Like so many other politically-incorrect medical terms, this one should also be removed from our vocabulary because, whether we admit it or not, words hurt.
For this reason, esophageal atresia and trachea-esophageal fistula have been referred to as “congenital anomalies” on our website. This term has a more positive connotation that suggests individuals living with these conditions have anomalies that are present from birth. This term is more positive as it implies that individuals with these conditions are unique, different or peculiar but certainly not defective.
And so I ask that the next time a friend, a family member, a physician or even a stranger refers to someone as having a “birth defect”, take the time to correct them and educate them about why this term is no longer acceptable. Little by little we can change the language used to describe people with esophageal atresia and, in turn, change the way people perceive us.