Sacking of Canadian Medical Association Journal's editors 'deeply troubling'

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday March 3, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Thursday March 2, 2006.

The dismissal of two of the Canadian Medical Association Journal's editors seems to be an attempt to deprive the journal of its capacity for investigative journalism, states an editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet.

On Feb 20, 2006, John Hoey and Anne Marie Todkill, the Editor-in-Chief and Senior Deputy Editor, respectively, of the CMAJ were dismissed by the company that manages the journal on behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Sources close to the journal believe the action was taken after a dispute over a news article on access to emergency contraceptive pills. The CMA requested that the article be withdrawn from the journal and redrafted as it constituted scientific research, rather than journalism, and the editorial team should therefore have sought ethical counsel and peer review of the article. However, in an editorial in January this year Hoey complained that his editorial independence had been compromised by the CMA's request.

The Lancet comments: "Medical journals have a long history of investigative journalism through which they perform an important watchdog function by challenging the forces that undermine the values of medicine. What seems to be an attempt by the CMA to deprive editors of the capacity to bring to account those responsible for the perverse consequences of badly implemented policy or wrongheaded principles is deeply troubling. To distinguish between a journal's responsibility to publish peer-reviewed research and investigative journalism is false. Journals have a responsibility--in fact, a duty--to do both."

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See also this week's World Report, which details the case.

Contact: The Lancet press office 0207 424 4949/4249 pressoffice@lancet.com


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