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August 27, 1997

Obtain Informed Consent Before Publishing Information About Patients

Author Affiliations

Dr Clever is editor, Western Journal of Medicine, San Francisco, Calif.

JAMA. 1997;278(8):628-629. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550080038019

AUTHORS OF SCIENTIFIC articles have an obligation to obtain informed consent of patients before the publication of data by which those patients can be identified. The purpose of this procedure is to maintain the efficacy and dignity of the individual. The challenge is to avoid the distribution of information that can lead to discrimination, recrimination, and shame; to job disqualification or the loss of work or insurance. The call is now because the spread of medical information can have consequences far into the future. One remedy is to require permission from patients before the publication of research and reports.

See also pp 624 and 682.  Standards are developed not just to affirm what is right but to avoid what is wrong. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,1 for example, asserts rights to work safely, to live healthily, and to speak freely. It also seeks to protect people from slavery