As the world re-evaluates what terms/brands may be racist or sexist in nature, medical researchers are now scrutinizing their vocabulary under a microscope.
Many medical terms are named for their discoverer, such as Georgios Papanikolaou and the now ubiquitously used Pap Smear.
Or named after a male figure, such as the Achilles tendon, named after Greek mythical legend, Achilles, who was vulnerable along the vertical cord of his heel.
However some conditions are named with archaic terminology such as hysteria when it involves a woman’s womb.
Globus hystericus, for example, is a sensation of something being felt in a women’s throat that is not there, possibly precipitated by low estrogen levels or menopause.
Australian physician Dr. Kristen Small, however, told the Courier Mail that she is teaching students to use more “practical” terms rather than eponyms from a “dead man.”
And Daily Mail reports that council members of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are planning to phase out the terminology as well.
Dr. Nisha Khot stated, “The young trainee doctors are mostly keen to learn the more relevant language and are often shocked when they hear the origins of some medical terms”.
Adam’s apple, for example, was named after the Biblical Adam who bit into the forbidden fruit. It’s anatomically represented, however, by the thyroid cartilage.
Hysterectomies, for example, received their name from the latin root hystera or “womb” and by a “hysteria” produced from a “sick womb”. The surgical procedure involves removing the uterus. So Dr. Khot and others believe, this procedure will later be called “uterectomy”.
Many have already begun to adapt globus hystericus to globus sensation, to avoid any negative connotations.
However, many anatomical parts, surgical instruments and operating procedures are named after their inventors.
A Whipple procedure is a pancreaticoduodenectomy used to remove tumors from the head of the pancreas. It’s a widely popular and successful operation in fighting pancreatic cancer and was named after Dr. Allen Whipple who first performed the complex procedure at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in 1935.
Allis clamp/forceps are a surgical favorite due to their rounded ends allowing easy grasp of hard to hold tissue during surgery. They were named after their American designer, Dr. Oscar Huntington Allis.
Common conditions named after their discoverer include:
- Antonio Maria Valsalva – Valsalva maneuver
- John Langdon Down – Down’s Syndrome
- Sir James Paget – Paget’s disease of the breast
- Thomas Addison – Addison’s disease
- Sir Charles Bell – Bell’s Palsy
- James Parkinson – Parkinson’s disease
- Alois Alzheimer – Alzheimer’s disease
So medical industry experts will need to debate which terms might need to be changed to become more socially accepted while at the same time decide if those who contributed to modern medicine should still be honored with the current eponyms.