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Commentary: The importance of patients' consent for publication

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 06 July 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:16
  1. Richard Smith, editora
  1. a BMJ, London WC1H 9JR

    This paper made us think hard about the issue of getting consent from patients for publication of identifiable information about them. Obvious identifying information has been removed, but these patients cannot be considered to be truly anonymised. After much discussion, the editorial team and the authors agreed that we should get witnessed consent for publication from those patients in the series who were capable of giving consent and agreement to publication from the relatives of those not able to give informed consent. The authors did this, and one set of relatives did not agree to publication. The details of the patient whose relatives did not agree have been removed from the paper.

    Getting consent for the publication of a series of patients in medical journals has not been usual, and readers, future authors, and other editors may find it useful if we describe the thinking that went into getting consent for this paper. We start from the premise that information that emerges from the doctor-patient relationship is confidential information. The doctor-patient relationship is built on trust, including the …

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