Patients' written consent when photographed could suffice for journalsBMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7506.1509-a (Published 23 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1509
EDITOR—We agree with Groves and Croot that consent for publication of images is a necessary legal requirement.1 Nevertheless, we think that the best option may not always be for the journal to obtain consent.
We often take photographs in our consulting room because they have a lot of uses, publication being just one.2 When we take a photograph of a patient, we do not usually know its final use at that time. We may not have another opportunity to ask the patient to give his or her consent to publication in a journal if we want to use the photograph.
We have our own consent form and use it as another official document. We think that if this document is similar in content to that of medical journals,3 4 journals should accept it for two main reasons. Firstly, we may never see the patient again to sign the consent form when the journal asks us for it, even if the image is essential for publication. Secondly, our policy helps to allow photographs taken in countries where English is not spoken to be published in international journals. Our patients usually do not speak English, so they cannot legally sign a legal document they cannot understand.
Biomedical journals should be flexible and accept different consent forms from their own. We coordinate Fotomedica, a medical digital image website (http://www.fotomedica.com/), which is freely accessible to all. We do not use pictures with recognisable faces, and we always erase the name of the patient on radiograms. Sometimes we use image programs to improve the image.
We recommend obtaining consent at the same time the photograph is taken, because patients, unlike the postman, don't always ring twice.
Competing interests None declared.