Intended for healthcare professionals


An ethics committee for the BMJ

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 23 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:720

It helps us to think harder and do better

  1. Alexander McCall Smith, professor of medical law,
  2. Alison Tonks, assistant editor,
  3. Richard Smith, editor
  1. Faculty of Law, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9YL
  2. BMJ
  3. BMJ

    Readers wondering why the BMJ or any other medical journal needs an ethics committee should read the latest annual report of the United Kingdom's Committee on Publication Ethics.1 It describes cases that until 1997—when the committee was set up—editors had to tackle alone: authors who cannot agree on their respective contributions to a piece of research, allegations of fraud (against editors as well as researchers), victimisation of whistleblowers, investigators who slice their work up in to “least publishable units” and submit to several different journals simultaneously, and research papers that come without ethics committee approval “because there isn't one in our hospital in [unnamed country].” Less dramatic issues come up every day: reviewers who write …

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