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Case Reports in the Medical Literature

Donald E. Riesenberg, MD
JAMA. 1986;255(15):2067. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370150109039.
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"Dear Doctor: Your case report is well written and interesting; it illustrates the many facets of an important entity. We do not find it acceptable for publication." Blasphemy! The single-case method is a venerable teaching technique, which closely approximates real medical practice. Why, then, do many prospective authors receive some version of the above letter?

The difficulty may be a misunderstanding of criteria for acceptability of such papers. The Journal very strongly endorses the concept of publishing case reports. In fact, five of 51 recently collected Landmark Articles in Medicine1 deal with single cases. Greenwalt,2 commenting on one of those landmark cases, has said that "carefully documented study of an unusual patient represents an experiment of nature that may be the opportunity to explain a long-recorded but unexplained clinical mystery."

In this issue of The Journal appear a CASE REPORT and accompanying editorial3,4 that serve to clarify


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