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Does avoidance of peanuts in early life reduce the risk of peanut allergy?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 11 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c424

Rapid Response:

Potential breach of patient confidentiality - how much do we need to declare?

Dear The Editor,

Whilst reading McLean and Sheikh’s excellent article on peanut
allergy our attention was caught by a statement in the competing interests
declaration that we feel may not be suitable for the public domain. It is
cited that one of the authors (AS) has a child with a food allergy. Does
this reference not potentially lead to the identification of this child
and therefore part of their own confidential medical history? We do not
know if Dr Sheikh has one or multiple children, nor should we. Neither
should we need Doctors to declare their children’s illness in order for a
respected international journal to publish their paper. As healthcare
practitioners we strive to work in the best interests of the child as
defined in the Children Act. Is this in the child’s best interest?

Therefore, we find ourselves asking the question, is there not a more
appropriate way that this could be declared for future papers (if
necessary to cite a personal or family illness at all) to avoid such a
potential breach of confidentiality involving a minor? We suggest a more
generalised approach such as ‘Dr X has a personal interest in food
allergy’, which would help to remove this confidentiality issue. Authors’
families need not worry about their parents feeling obliged to declare
their offspring’s illnesses to the medical press.

Josephine Brown, Claire Davies,
Medical Students,
Cardiff University School of Medicine.

Dr Morgan Pomeroy,
FP1 Paediatrics,
Children’s Hospital for Wales.

Dr D P Tuthill,
Consultant Paediatrician,
Children’s Hospital for Wales.


1. McLean S and Sheikh A. Does avoidance of peanuts in early life
reduce the risk of peanut allergy? BMJ 2010;340:c424

2. Children Act 1989. Reprinted incorporating corrections 2006
(November). London: HMSO, 1989.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

22 March 2010
Dr D. P. Tuthill
Consultant Paediatrician,
Josephine D. M. Brown, Claire C. A. Davies, Dr M. Pomeroy.
Children’s Hospital for Wales