Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


No more free lunches

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 29 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1155

Rapid Response:

Declaration of Competing Interest: forced confession?

I have been unsuccessful in tracing back to the time when the
decision was made to extract the information on the declaration of
competing interest, conflicting interest or by whatever other name one
calls it. I have intended raising this issue for some time but was at a
loss to find a suitable peg to hang it on.

Having very recently installed broad band technology, one of the
luxuries I decided to treat myself to was to browse throught the BMJ site.
I thus stumbled on theme issues and ended up with this editorial, and that
was the moment of inspiration to express my concern about declaration of
competing interests.

Clearly there is no room for debate on the requirement to declare
interests, but what is debatable, is the requirement to have to admit to
competing interest every time one has to declare an interest. There seems
to be a need to plead guilty without a trial, or if you like to sign a
forced confession. Although there would be many an occasion when the
submission could be influenced by one's own interests, commercial or
otherwise, it should not be assumed that any personal interest is
necessarily a competing interest.

It may well be that this subject has been debated in the past, before
the editorial decision was taken, but some preliminary inquiries indicate
that there may be room for reopening the debate on the subject of
competing interest.

May I therefore suggest a more open expression of interest and that
competing interest be relabelled just declaration of interest, or relevant
interests. This would continue to provide all the protection afforded by
the requirement to declare one's interests while leaving the readers, who
are perfectly capable of making up their own minds, to draw their own

Any other competing or conflicting thoughts?

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 August 2004
Anton E Joseph
Consultant Radiologist
Mayday University Hospital, London Road, Croydon