Analysis Ethical debate

Commentary: Consent to publication—no absolutes

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 08 September 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1233
  1. Frank Oberklaid, director1, editor-in-chief2
  1. 1Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria 3052, Australia
  2. 2Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health
  1. frank.oberklaid{at}

    Two years ago four paediatricians and an ethicist submitted to the BMJ a case study as an ethical debate which the BMJ decided not to publish because the authors had not obtained the consent of the patient’s parents for publication. The authors submitted it elsewhere, and the article was published last year.

    Here the authors explain why they think the BMJ should have published despite the lack of consent (doi 10.1136/bmj.a1231); the editor of the journal that did publish the case study explains why he did so; and two members of the BMJ’s ethics committee explain why they recommended not to publish it (doi: 10.1136/bmj.a1232). An accompanying editorial explains why English law would now not allow the BMJ to publish it without consent, even if we thought it reasonable to do so.

    Privacy and confidentiality are central and longstanding tenets of the relationship between patient and doctor. It follows then that specific informed consent should be obtained before any …

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