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Medical journals

Censorship, intimidation emerges in power struggle over Canadian medical journal and the Canadian Medical Association

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: medical journals, health news, Natural News


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(NewsTarget) -- An eight-member panel of experts headed by Supreme Court chief justice Dick Pound says that the owner of Canada's top medical journal has no right to prevent its editors from printing controversial stories critical of the journal's advertisers.

In February, the owners of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) fired its two senior editors, Dr. John Hoey, who had been senior editor for 10 years, and deputy editor Anne Marie Todkill. Their firings came after the CMAJ's owners, the Canadian Medical Association, ordered the editors to remove a survey from an article. The survey detailed women's experiences when trying to buy the emergency contraceptive "Plan B" from pharmacists -- and accused pharmacists of collecting sensitive personal information from the women.

The Canadian Medical Association received a complaint from the Canadian Pharmacists Association prior to the censoring of the article and the editors being fired. After the dismissals, six other editors resigned, as did most of the CMAJ's editorial board.

"If the publisher doesn't like one of your articles because he or she thinks it may scare away advertisers, the publisher can't say to you, 'I'm sorry, you can't print that,'" Pound said. He says the matter should instead be brought to a journal oversight committee, and if both the committee and the editors cannot agree, the editors should still publish the material.

Hoey, who says he was fired without cause after the Feb. 20 issue of the CMAJ appeared with a censored version of the Plan B article that did not contain the survey, says, "Clearly, an editor has to have independence from the owners. That's almost a no-brainer it would seem to me."

Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai, president of the Canadian Medical Association, says the association has adopted all of the panel's 25 recommendations, and is in the process of hiring a new editorial staff. A group of the CMAJ's former editors are in the process of launching their own independent online medical journal, OpenMedicine.ca.

In the United States, medical journals are routinely accused of engaging in editorial decisions that favor advertisers and discredit competing theories. No medical journal currently requires full disclosure of financial conflicts of interest among article authors.

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