Medical eponyms: Patient advocates, professional interests and the persistence of honorary naming

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Eponyms have been adopted for the naming of disorders since the mid-nineteenth century. Physicians have favoured eponyms for many reasons, including their descriptive neutrality and role in the awards system of medicine. This paper examines the changing interest groups involved in the adoption of eponyms since 1960. As patient advocates have increasingly collaborated in the medical construction of their disorders, they have played a more influential role in the naming of conditions. This has particularly been the case in disorders known by descriptive terms identifying stigmatising features, such as mental, physical and behavioural abnormalities, as well as oftentrivialised hardships, like restless legs. Rather than seeking to upend existing medical naming conventions, patient advocates have continued to support the adoption of eponyms, doing so for many of the same reasons as physicians. This has included maintaining the role that eponyms play in honouring the contributions of medical researchers in constructing conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-556
Number of pages23
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2016


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • History

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