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February 22, 1964

Semantic Hypersensitivity to Penicillin?

JAMA. 1964;187(8):621. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03060210071025

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To the Editor:—  The selection of a title for scientific papers is a serious responsibility. An inaccurate choice of words can convey an unwarranted impression and make medico-legal misinterpretation possible.For example, the contribution entitled "Brain Damage Due to Penicillin" (JAMA186:899 [Dec 7] 1963) describes a long-known sequel to cerebral hypoxia resulting from any cause of brain ischemia. The title implies that the brain damage was uniquely and specifically attributable to penicillin as one of its possible adverse pharmacological properties.A more truthful choice of words would be "Brain Damage Following Anaphylactic Shock." The case histories do not sustain the proposition that penicillin per se will produce brain damage. Let us not provide litigious attorneys or clients with illusory material based on semantic carelessness.

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