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January 24, 2019

Patient and Caregiver Consent for Publication of Unidentifiable Case Reports—A Barrier to Medical Education and Patient Care

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine, The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
JAMA Oncol. 2019;5(3):300-301. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.6202

A case report essentially describes the patient’s story, including diagnosis, signs, symptoms, response to treatment, adverse reactions, and/or other unique findings. Case reports are considered to be informally collected anecdotal evidence that rely on personal testimony. Although randomized clinical trials and systematic reviews are emphasized in the hierarchy of clinical evidence,1 case reports may help the clinician to generate a hypothesis and may be valuable for learning about adverse reactions of drugs, novel management strategies, and a variety of other clinical information. Case reports and case series lay down the foundation for future studies and help advance medical education.2 Multiple research studies conducted by our research team were inspired by case reports published by other clinicians. Often, these reports are the first or only available evidence that clinicians have to learn about a spectrum of illness or its management. For example, recognition of the association between administration of thalidomide to mothers and malformations in their babies was triggered by reports of individual cases.3 Case reports have been a method of reporting new findings in medical literature for decades, and they capture well the nuances and narrative aspect involved in the science and art of medical care. Moreover, teaching in medicine is often patient based, relying mostly on case discussions.4