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Why Finns are sick of illnesses named after them.

From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
Organization: Management School
To: (spam-protected)
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 12:00:05 +0000
Subject: Why Finns are sick of illnesses named after them

The Times


Why Finns are sick of illnesses named after them


GERMAN measles, the Ebola virus and Lassa fever may be a blight on the regions that are forever linked with the illnesses. Even conditions such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever West Nile encephalitis or even Malibu disease (a nasty skin complaint suffered by surfers) add insult to injury. Political correctness has spread to diseases. Doctors are to discuss ending the practice of naming them after places in case it has a “negative impact”.

Doctors from 70 countries meeting in France this week at the World Medical Association will hear calls for change raised by the Finnish delegation, upset that Salla disease, a genetic disorder, was named after a small town of 10,000 souls in the north of their country. It is not Finland’s only place in the lexicon of illness. Kumlinge disease, a viral encephalitis, took its name from a Finnish island and Pogosta disease recalls a small village in eastern Finland.

The Finns want an end to the practice of naming new diseases after “persons, communities or regions”, pointing out that diseases are “very seldom restricted to a certain area”. The Finns conclude: “Germs and infectious agents can usually be found anywhere in the world. When giving names to diseases or pathological conditions, no names should be used, which could insult or have negative impact on persons, communities or regions.”

The naming of diseases is regarded as something of a privilege for scientists making the discovery, as reflected by conditions named after researchers such as Huntington’s, Down’s and Hughes Syndrome — a blood-clotting disorder described in 1983 by Graham Hughes, a British doctor.

But there are also countless examples of places forever linked to the first recognition of rare and distressing illnesses, such as Marburg’s disease (an acute haemorrhagic fever, with some of first reported cases in Marburg, Germany, in 1967). Peter Lackman, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “The naming of diseases is something which has grown up in a quite unorganised way and this is probably inevitable. What is important is that a consistent name is always given. Otherwise this causes confusion.

“For example, the English Disease is what the French used to call syphilis while the English called it the French Disease.”

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