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Letters Consent for publication

Simplifying consent for publication of case reports

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 01 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1878
  1. Robert W Aldridge, foundation year 2 doctor1
  1. 1Royal Free Hospital, London NW3 2QG
  1. rob.aldridge{at}

    Under the data protection act and guidance from the information commissioner, the BMJ is obliged to ensure all authors obtain consent for publication of case reports.1 As a foundation year 2 trainee keen to publish such interesting cases, I appreciate this need to protect patients, but I have also been frustrated by the current consent process.

    The Information Commissioner has advised doctors to think ahead when writing up cases,1 but such forward planning is hindered by the current publication process. I recently decided to write up a case report, and initially it was not clear which journal would be most interested in publishing the case as the story was still unfolding. What was clear, even on initial presentation, was that the case would be interesting enough to warrant publication.

    We therefore obtained consent for publication in advance while the patient was in hospital under our general surgical care, and subsequently wrote the case up on the patient’s discharge. However, when it came to submitting the case I discovered each journal had its own specific consent form, and would not accept the generic one we had written and the patient had signed in advance.

    To make the consent process easier for both authors and patients I therefore propose that the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors agree a consent form that would be valid for submission across medical journals to complement their excellent guidelines.2 This would allow authors the ability to gain consent in advance and on a single occasion. If the case report was rejected by one journal the consent obtained would still be valid for submission elsewhere, not requiring the complication of a new consent form to be signed by the patient.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1878


    • Good idea. We will pursue.—Ed

    • Competing interests: None declared.


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