N – Law demands patients’ consent

Biomedical journals must always have explicit consent to publish medical information about an identifiable living patient, insists UK data protection legislation, Jane Smith explained in the BMJ (2008;337:a1572). Doctors should ask for consent before they lose touch with patients; alternatively complete anonymisation might be a solution to not having consent. The BMJ used to waive the need for consent occasionally, but has revised its guidelines for authors. The same issue of the BMJ considers the ethics surrounding an article that the BMJ rejected because consent had not been obtained that was subsequently published in a different journal (a1231, a1232, and a1233). See also www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/library/data_protection/practical_application/health_data_-_use_and_disclosure001.pdf.