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Whose Disease?

Eponymous Pathology

Whose Disease? by Hugh McLaughlin
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There are a very large number of diseases in medicine that are named after the individual who first described them. This practice confers a sort of immortality on the original describer of the disease but sometimes leads to confusion in the minds of medical students (and others too!) who may not recall easily the pathological entity that lies behind the eponymous title. Some diseases that bear their discoverer’s name are so well known that they are commonly recognized even among the “laity”. Hodgkin’s disease comes to mind. Others are so specialized that they are recognized by only a few initiates in highly specialized fields of medical science. There are a great many of these. In general terms the best known diseases were all described many years ago and the individuals who described them may be considered lucky to have been around at a time when medical science was in it’s infancy and competition was not so fierce. In more recent times, as all of the “good” diseases have been snapped up, it is the lot of medical detectives to seek their recognition (and immortality) in less common diseases. Medical men have given their names not only to specific disease states, sometimes they have donated their appellations to specific signs of disease or to a particular test that the investigator developed or even to a particular histological appearance that is seen in a specific disease. Many of these will also be found in the following pages. Finally, not all diseases that have a “name” attached are named after the person who first discovered them. There are examples where the name of the first patient or family to be described with a disease has become associated with the disorder, Christmas disease is one such disorder, indeed on occasion only the patient’s initials are used—as in the naming of the JC virus.
Landes Bioscience; January 2003
115 pages; ISBN 9781570597725
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Title: Whose Disease?
Author: Hugh McLaughlin