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Naming Human Diseases: Ethical Principles of Curating Exclusive Substitute for Inopportune Nosology

By Zhiwen Hu, Ya Chen, Yuling Song, Zhongliang Yang, Hui Huang

Posted 03 May 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.05.01.442270

Background: In the medical sphere, understanding naming conventions strengthen the integrity of naming human diseases remains nominal rather than substantial yet. Since the current nosology-based standard for human diseases could not offer a one-size-fits-all corrective mechanism, many idiomatic but flawed names frequently appear in scientific literature and news outlets at the cost of sociocultural impacts. Objective: We attempt to examine the ethical oversights of current naming practices and propose heuristic rationales and approaches to determine a pithy name instead of an inopportune nosology. Methods: First, we examined the compiled global online news volumes and emotional tones on some inopportune nosology like German measles, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, Spanish flu, Hong Kong flu, and Huntington's disease in the wake of COVID-19. Second, we prototypically scrutinize the lexical dynamics and pathological differentials of German measles and common synonyms by leveraging the capacity of the Google Books Ngram Corpus. Third, we demonstrated the empirical approaches to curate an exclusive substitute for an anachronistic nosology German measles based on deep learning models and post-hoc explanations. Results: The infodemiological study shows that the public informed the offensive names with extremely negative tones in textual and visual narratives. The findings of the historiographical study indicate that many synonyms of German measles did not survive, while German measles became an anachronistic usage, and rubella has taken the dominant place since 1994. The PubMedBERT model could identify rubella as a potential substitution for German measles with the highest semantic similarity. The results of the semantic drift experiments further indicate that rubella tends to survive during the ebb and flow of semantic drift. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the nosological evolution of anachronistic names could result in sociocultural impacts without a corrective mechanism. To mitigate such impacts, we introduce some ethical principles for formulating an improved naming scheme. Based on deep learning models and post-hoc explanations, our illustrated experiments could provide hallmark references to the remedial mechanism of naming practices and pertinent credit allocations.

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