Editor—I joined the BMA when it ran a principled campaign in opposition to Margaret Thatcher's proposals for “reforming” the NHS. There have been other occasions when I have felt proud to be a member—for example, when a BMA spokesman took a principled stand recently about the scandalous acquiescence in NHS recruitment of staff trained at the expense of some very poor countries.
In contrast, I feel ashamed of the BMA's decision to restrict access to bmj.com,1 2 and I am one of several people who have tried (so far unsuccessfully) to prompt debate about this decision at the annual representative meeting. Making bmj.com available to the world without charge reflected creditably on an association of well paid professionals. At a time when the reputation of the medical profession is under attack from a variety of quarters, this generous spirited gift to the public could have been highlighted by the BMA. Instead, it decided that it would not continue to subsidise open access.
I regard the creation of a fully open access bmj.com as the most important single advance in medical publishing during my professional lifetime. Not only did it bring research, educational material, news, and views to a very wide readership at no cost to readers, it developed a unique forum for lively debate, engaging a wide variety of individuals and constituencies.
The bmj.com of 2005 is not what bmj.com used to be, and I am already accessing it less than I used to now that the site demands passwords from me. Members of the BMA should be given the opportunity to debate at this year's annual representative meeting the decision to withdraw support for fully open access to bmj.com. I believe that decision has further tarnished a professional image that had actually been enhanced by the creation of the pre-2005 bmj.com.
Competing interests None declared