Medical Definition of Subject

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Subject: As a noun:
1. A branch of learning that forms a course of study. In medical school, one of the subjects traditionally studied in the first year is anatomy.
2. A matter that is studied or otherwise considered. Death is a subject often avoided by doctors in talking with patients.
3. The object of observation,, treatment, or research. There are guidelines for the conduct of research involving human subjects at NIH.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has recommended replacing the term "subject" by "participant" to imply that the person consents to the research. And if someone such as a baby cannot consent, the APA recommended the term "individual."

Reviewed on 9/7/2018

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