Should eponyms be abandoned?
Medicine has been enthusiastic in naming tests, symptoms, and diseases after their discoverers. Alexander Woywodt and Eric Matteson argue that eponyms are no longer appropriate, but Judith A Whitworth believes they remain a useful reflection of medical history
- By: Judith Whitworth, Alexander Woywodt
YES—The Oxford English Dictionary defines an eponym as a person after whom a discovery, invention, institution, etc, is named or thought to be named. Eponyms are deeply rooted in tradition and their use has long been viewed as a matter of taste. However, it is time to abandon them in favour of a more descriptive nomenclature.
Eponyms often provide a less than truthful account of how diseases were discovered and reflect influence, politics, language, habit, or even sheer luck rather than scientific achievement. Moreover, the continued use of tainted eponyms is inappropriate and will not be accepted by patients, relatives, or the public.
The atrocities committed by Nazi doctors are well documented1; they received new attention with the discovery that Hans Reiter, a German doctor who is remembered for his discovery of a variant of reactive arthritis, took part in human experiments.2 These revelations resulted in a decline in use