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September 20, 1995

Ghostwriters: Not Always What They Appear

Author Affiliations

Baylor College of Medicine Houston, Tex

JAMA. 1995;274(11):870. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530110032018

To the Editor.  —We are concerned that the Editorial "Acknowledging Ghosts" in JAMA may be interpreted as a validation of ghostwriting.1 A ghostwriter is "a person who writes for and gives credit of authorship to another person, who hires him to do so." By definition, the role of the person whose data the ghostwriter uses cannot be "author": "the original writer of a literary work." We see no place for ghostwriting or rewriting in medical manuscripts.2,3 There is a clear distinction between minor editing and ghostwriting; the first involves inconsiderable changes, the second composing. The effort of the originator of the concept is largely cerebral, preferably novel and creative; the work of the ghostwriter and manuscript editor, like that of others with prescribed, remunerated duties, is largely derivative and technical.The statement that "ghostwriters and editors who make important contributions but do not qualify for authorship [italics ours]

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