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January 28, 1974

Ethical Priorities

JAMA. 1974;227(4):434-435. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230170050014

"I agree with what you say, but will defend to the death my right not to let you say it." Such in substance—if not in exact utterance—is the enjoinder of the Council of Biology Editors1 to the editors of biological and medical journals who are faced with the dilemma of publishing or rejecting manuscripts based on "unethically" conducted investigations. Publication would be tantamount to condoning unethical practices. Rejection, on the other hand, could only serve as a needed deterrent to repeated offences.

In a recent editorial,2 R. J. Levine, editor of Clinical Research, questions the wisdom of the Council's directive. Blanket rejection of an unethically conducted, yet scientifically valid study, may deprive us of valuable information, which otherwise could be obtained with difficulty, if at all; nor does rejection of the paper ensure against its future publication in another more "permissive" journal. A more sensible approach, Levine suggests,