Ontology and medical terminology: Why description logics are not enough

In Proceedings of the Conference: Towards an Electronic Patient Record (TEPR 2003). Boston, MA: Medical Records Institute (2003)
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Abstract

Ontology is currently perceived as the solution of first resort for all problems related to biomedical terminology, and the use of description logics is seen as a minimal requirement on adequate ontology-based systems. Contrary to common conceptions, however, description logics alone are not able to prevent incorrect representations; this is because they do not come with a theory indicating what is computed by using them, just as classical arithmetic does not tell us anything about the entities that are added or subtracted. In this paper we shall show that ontology is indeed an essential part of any solution to the problems of medical terminology – but only if it is understood in the right sort of way. Ontological engineering, we shall argue, should in every case go hand in hand with a sound ontological theory.

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