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November 5, 2003

Definitions of Terrorism

Author Affiliations
  • 1Prevention Research Center, Berkeley, Calif
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco/Mount Zion Medical Center
  • 3Department of History, Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif
JAMA. 2003;290(17):2254. doi:10.1001/jama.290.17.2254

To the Editor: In their article about the psychological effects of terrorist attacks in Israel, Dr Bleich and colleagues1 did not develop a meaningful definition of "terrorism." Thus, they reduced a complex situation to an ambiguous general term. The use of words such as "terror" and "terrorist" is prejudicial to scientific inquiry. Such language serves a political point of view, not the needs of medicine or public health.