Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Maternal mortality in the UK and the need for obstetric physicians

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 09 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4993

Rapid Response:

Expand Obstetric Medicine - no conflict of interest?


I must lead a sheltered life as I must confess that I had not heard
of obstetric physicians until I read the BMJ Editorial by Nelson-Piercy et
al on "Maternal mortality in the UK and the need for obstetric
physicians"[1]. The authors make a cogent argument for a selective
expansion of obstetric medicine in the UK.

I note with interest that the authors declared no conflict of
interest in writing this editorial. Yet they are calling for a significant
n expansion of their own sub-specialty. This seems to me to be a potential
"competing interest".

The BMJ's criteria for competing interests does include non-financial
interests. I would suggest that (presumably) leading members of a small
sub-specialty calling for an expansion of their numbers could be seen as a
"non-financial association(s) that may be relevant or seen to be relevant
to the submitted manuscript"[2].

Any resulting expansion of obstetric medicine would see an increase
in membership, recognition and resource allocation to this nascent medical

This potential competing interest does not necessarily diminish the
strength of their argument per se. However, the non-recognition of a
potential conflict of interest takes some of the shine off an otherwise
reasonable editorial, in my personal opinion.


1. Nelson-Piercy C, Mackillop L et al. Maternal mortality in the UK and
the need for obstetric physicians. BMJ 2011 343:d4993doi:10.1136/bmj.d4993

2. BMJ competing interests guidance. BMJ website
interests (accessed 6/9/11)

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 September 2011
Gee Yen Shin
Consultant Virologist
St George's Hospital, Blackshaw Road, London SW17 0QT