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April 21, 1978

Who Was First?

Author Affiliations

Hackettstown, NJ

JAMA. 1978;239(16):1609-1610. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280430025007

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To the Editor.—  Probably the commonest error to be found in the case report throughout the literature is the claim of precedence: ie, "this is the third reported case of..."; "the association of these three lesions has not previously been emphasized in the literature." The report by Chodak and Passaro (239:225, 1978) is a case in point (Gastroenterology 12:879-883, 1949), although the error is not important.The point is that an author can never tell how many cases of any entity have previously been reported: no amount of library research will permit more than a rough guess. If the point he is making has to do with an intangible, such as an approach to therapy, there is no way even to look it up for precedence.If an author is to do the minimum to locate previously published cases of, for example, a specific pathological entity (to make it easy),