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Research Christmas 2013: Research

The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards: covert observational study

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f7198 (Published 14 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7198

Re: The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards: covert observational study

[Semi-Serious Response]

As a member of my university's Institutional Review Board (IRB), I am concerned that the authors "did not seek ethical approval" for their study. Had an investigator proceeded with a similar study without IRB approval at my institution, they would certainly be chastised and likely also be required to perform some kind of remediation before being allowed to perform future research.

For all the reasons given by the authors (no subject-identifiable data, lack of coercion, minimal risk), the study protocol would certainly have been approved as Exempt from requiring informed consent. But the lack of even seeking approval is troubling to me, as it circumvents the primary purpose of ethical review, i.e. to ensure that research subjects' rights and safety are adequately protected.

I completely understand that no one was harmed here and that the Christmas issues of BMJ intentionally contain more light-hearted research and articles. Indeed, I wish that American medical journals would follow suit.

Competing interests: No competing interests

29 December 2013
Jeffrey R Suchard
Emergency Physician
University of California, Irvine Medical Center
101 The City Drive, Route 128, Orange California, United States