Conflict of interest

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 52, No. 1, January, February 2010, page(s) 8 Letters
Rupinder Brar, BSc, Vanessa Brcic, MD, Nora Etches, MD

Editorialists have a right to ex­press their opinion, but do they have the right to avoid disclosing their conflicts of interest? According to BCMJ’s authorship and disclosure form, “all BCMJ authors must read and sign the statements on (1) authorship, (2) copyright, and (3) disclosure of financial interests (www.bcmj.org/files/BCMJ_Author_Form_2009.pdf). 

We ask the editor to confirm that editorials are exempt from the authorship and disclosure policy. Either way, we feel obliged to point out that Dr Brian Day’s editorial in the September 2009 issue of BCMJ failed to acknowledge his interest in promoting commercial medical care (“Politicians, economists, and lawyers: Who will save us?” BCMJ 2009;51:281). 

Furthermore, the litigation he praises was initiated by him and his associates in order to force the province to allow expansion of for-profit health care delivery and insurance. Dr Day’s enterprises would directly benefit from this outcome. Curiously, adjacent to the editorial appeared an advertisement for the Cambie Surgery Centre, the private clinic with which Dr Day is affiliated.

Publishing this editorial without a conflict-of-interest statement and, in the print version, without the author’s full name is a dubious practice. For Dr Day to use his position on the Editorial Board to exploit this loophole is inappropriate, and it discredits the BCMJ as an objective resource for BC physicians. 

As members of the BCMA, we object to allowing the BCMJ to be used in this way, and we urge that disclosure statements be required henceforth for all editorials.
—Rupinder Brar, BSc, Vanessa Brcic, MD, Nora Etches, MD, Khati Hendry, MD, Michael Klein, MD, Margaret McGregor, MD, Helena Swinkels, MD, Robert Tarzwell, MD, Randall F. White, MD, Robert Woollard, MD

The signatories are members of Canadian Doc­tors for Medicare, an organization that has intervenor status in the referenced litigation.

Editor's Response:
The BCMJ is divided into three sections, as you will see on the contents page: articles, opinions, and departments. The disclosure policy applies to articles only—toward the end of articles you will find a note regarding disclosures under the heading “Competing interests.” This is clearly stated in our Guidelines for Authors (www.bcmj.org/submit-article): “When sub­mitting a clinical/scientific/review paper, all authors must complete the BCMJ’s four-part ‘Authorship, copyright, disclosure, and consent form.’” 

This is not a “loophole,” but a publicly stated policy. Dr Day’s co-ownership of the Cambie Surgery Centre is a well-known fact both inside and outside the medical community, and he has been writing editorials on this topic for years. The Opinions section of the BCMJ is a forum for ideas and opinions of all sorts; please continue to send them in.—ED

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