Hickam's dictum

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Hickam's dictum is a counterargument to the use of Occam's razor in the medical profession.[1] While Occam's razor suggests that the simplest explanation is the most likely, implying in medicine that diagnosticians should assume a single cause for multiple symptoms, one form of Hickam's dictum states: "A man can have as many diseases as he damn well pleases."[2] The principle is attributed to an apocryphal physician named Hickam,[2] possibly John Bamber Hickam, MD.[3] When he began saying this is uncertain. In 1946, he was a housestaff member in medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Hickam was a faculty member at Duke University in the 1950s, and was later chairman of medicine at Indiana University from 1958 to 1970.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fields, W. Bradley. "Clinical Vignettes: Hickam's Dictum versus Occam's Razor: A Case for Occam". Society of Hospital Medicine. Archived from the original on 2007-03-19.
  2. ^ a b Miller, Wallace T. (1998). "Letter from the editor: Occam versus Hickam". Seminars in Roentgenology. 33 (3): 213. doi:10.1016/S0037-198X(98)80001-1. an apocryphal physician named Hickam
  3. ^ Mani, Navin; Slevin, Nick; Hudson, Andrew (20 December 2011). "What Three Wise Men have to say about diagnosis". The BMJ. 343: 2. doi:10.1136/bmj.d7769. PMID 22187188. S2CID 20673955.
  4. ^ David, N. J. (September 2002). "Noble J. David, MD, Reminisces". Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology. 22 (3): 240–246. doi:10.1097/00041327-200209000-00009. PMID 12352589.

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