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Should eponyms be abandoned? Yes

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39308.342639.AD (Published 30 August 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:424
  1. Alexander Woywodt, consultant renal physician1,
  2. Eric Matteson, professor of rheumatology2
  1. 1Renal Unit, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Preston, Lancashire PR2 9HT
  2. 2Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN, USA
  1. Correspondence to: A Woywodt Mail{at}Alexander-Woywodt.com

    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

    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.

    Eponyms connected to Nazi medicine are inappropriate

    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 …

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