Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Methylphenidate works by increasing dopamine levels

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 03 February 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:259

Rapid Response:

We will ask the BMJ ethics committee to review our policy on pictures

I apologise to anyone upset by the publication of the picture of a
boy with attention deficit disorder in this article, but publication was
not in conflict with our guidelines. I will, however, ask our ethics
committee to advise us on whether we should adopt a new policy, and we
will be pleased to hear the views of readers.

We have explicitly had different standards for articles that emerge
from the doctor-patient relationship and news articles, and we have
debated it several times. It is now widely accepted that patients should
consent to the publication of any information about them that emerges from
the doctor-patient relationship--because that relationship is assumed to
be confidential and great advantages flow from it being confidential.

The relationship with a news photographer is, however, quite
different from that with a doctor. Photographers usually do obtain
consent, and the Press Complaints Commission (which governs the BMJ as
well as newspapers) has rules on this. The BMJ could set higher standards
for the publication of pictures from news photographers, but it would
create difficulties without achieving much--when those photographed have
consented and when the whole of the rest of the world's media is able to
use them.

Nevertheless, we will ask our ethics committee to help us with this
issue, which has upset readers before.

Richard Smith
Editor, BMJ

Competing interests: No competing interests

11 February 2001
Richard Smith