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Medical eponyms: redeeming or not the long-standing tradition


Background Healthcare workers often use terms such as Apgar, Babinski or Glasgow in their routine duties. These terms are used worldwide; they are universal and recognised in various languages. Medical eponyms are immutable by the nature; they save valuable time by streamlining communication among health professionals. However, some of these terms lack accuracy and lead to confusion.

Objective and methods This perspective article aims to analyse the current status of the divergent trends about redeeming (or not) the long-standing tradition of using medical eponyms. Multiple positions regarding the use of these terms have been expressed in the medical literature, and these are summarised in the manuscript. Although, this compilation is based primarily on the author’s medical background and experience.

Results There is an interesting debate in the scientific community about the suitability of certain eponyms. Defenders and detractors argue a broad spectrum of points, but there is still no international consensus. The use of classical, ethical and well-recognised medical eponyms will remain a cornerstone in daily clinical settings, textbooks and medical journals. However, their use can be inconsistent or confused in specific conditions, and they can be influenced by local geography and culture.

Conclusions There is a need to refrain from using unethical and controversial eponyms throughout the whole of science. Further academic and scientific efforts should be addressed to provide a structural systematisation, semantic classification and etymological categorisation on the use of medical eponyms.

  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • ethics (see medical ethics)
  • history (see medical history)
  • medical education & training

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository.

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