[On the use of eponyms in medicine]

Alejandro Goic G
Revista Médica de Chile 2009, 137 (11): 1508-10
A distinctive feature of medical language is the use of eponyms or denominations constructed using the names of real or imaginary persons. Some consider this practice as inappropriate, because eponyms are sometimes more a reflection of influence and power rather than the real authorship of discoveries. On the other hand, others consider valid the use of eponyms since they are a part of a scientific domain used to name objects and diseases. The fact is that tradition and use have finally imposed eponyms in medical language and demonstrated its usefulness. They facilitate the communication between peers and are also a tribute to the clinical sagacity and observational skills of their discoverers. A reasonable practice is to favor the use of those classical eponyms that have endured the pass of time due to their clinical importance, specificity diagnostic significance or historical relevance. Moreover, the knowledge of the biography or historical environment of discoverers of signs, syndromes or diseases gives us a historical perspective of medicine and sheds light on the past, evolution and present knowledge and practice of medicine.

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