—We thank Dr DeBakey and Ms DeBakey for bringing their concerns to our attention. We disagree that The Journal's policy requiring authors to disclose substantial editing or writing assistance validates ghostwriting or ghost authorship. We agree that ghost authors should be "flushed out" of scientific publication (we prefer the phrase "fleshed out"). However, exorcising ghosts simply transfers them to another invisible dimension; it does not eliminate them.The existence of a ghostwriter does not necessitate the dysphemistic existence of a ghost author. Thus, a writer, who solely contributes to the writing of a manuscript—visibly or not—does not automatically qualify for authorship. However, some nonauthors contribute substantial work that deserves public credit and accountability, and some contribute assistance that requires them to be named as part of disclosure of conflicts of interest.Recently, authors have described their experiences with commercial companies that offer them writing and editorial assistance.
Flanagin A, Rennie D. Ghostwriters: Not Always What They Appear-Reply. JAMA. 1995;274(11):870-871. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530110032019