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In one documentary's trailer, one doctor says, "Let's be honest, a number of medical schools are run by pharmageddon."

Pharmageddon doesn't literally mean anything, but it implies something. Is there any legal difference between a person using pharmageddon in the sentence above and a person using the exact implied meaning of the word pharmageddon in the sentence above?

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    It's unclear to me what the "exact implied meaning" of this neologism is. Are you asking whether there's any legally significant distinction between the phrases "... run by pharmageddon" and something like "... run by corrupt pharmaceutical companies"? Is there any particular reason why you think there might be? Which country's laws are you asking about? – Nate Eldredge Jul 27 at 17:03
  • Nate, yes, if they used the phrase 'pharmaceutical companies' as opposed to 'pharmageddon, would there be any legal difference and implications? The reason I ask is because, if there is a legal difference, then when translating the documentary, it might be better to use the phrase 'pharmageddon'. I am asking about it in general on a global level, but if not, then what about the US because that's where the documentary was published. – Matty Jul 28 at 8:01
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Is there a legal difference between using pharmageddon or the implied meaning of the word pharmageddon?

It depends on the context, wording, and substance of the "implied meaning". If these are in the sense of the comments to your question, then there is no difference from a legal standpoint. The lawfulness of both alternatives is premised on the First Amendment, which protects free speech. Many other countries have in their legislation or Constitution equivalent provisions to protect the freedom of speech.

Here, the invented term pharmageddon constitutes rhetorical hyperbole. A reasonable person would understand it not as a concrete entity controlling the medical schools, but as an adaptation from the Book of Revelation to give a connotation of doom or catastrophe in the context of medicine academics.

The statement of fact "[A] numer of medical schools are run by pharmageddon" would not be actionable as defamatory because it does not sufficiently identify entities (such as specific pharmaceutical companies and/or medical schools) of which reputation is or could be harmed by that statement. Even if the publication singled out specific entities, actionability would depend on the veracity of the notion that the denounced dynamics hinder the schools' priority (i.e., academics & research in medicine) and/or the righteousness the allegedly controlling entity is expected or required to maintain.

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  • Thank you. From your answer, I understand that the phrase "A number of medical schools are run by pharmageddon" would not be actionable as defamatory. What about the phrase "A number of medical schools are run by pharmaceutical companies", would that be actionable as defamatory? – Matty Jul 29 at 11:25
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    @Matty No for the same reasons mentioned in the last paragraph. If a publication does not identify entities, nobody would have standing to sue for defamation because nobody can reasonably allege/establish that the statement particularly targeted him/it. Even if it did and the statement were false, the defamed entity would need prove that the statement caused him/it losses, since it is debatable that the statement is defamatory per se (i.e., defamatory regardless of the context). – Iñaki Viggers Jul 29 at 12:05

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