In a viewpoint published on JAMA Oncology, experts from
“The publication of case reports did not previously require patient consent provided that patients were unidentifiable” the authors wrote, adding that now this consent is considered mandatory by many journals and institutions, like The BMJ journals or University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “As medical professionals, we take thorough precautions to conceal any and all patient identifiers” authors claimed, concerning that these requirements by some institutes and journals may interfere with clinicians’ reporting of cases with ‘delicate’ details.
Maybe a compromise is needed and a waiver of the patient consent can be considered, provided that anonymity is secured. As Reddy and colleagues wrote, it is not always practical to obtain consent for case reports of abuse, injuries, medical errors and other similar issues, possibly opening the door to lawsuits. Nonetheless, missing those reports could generate a void in learning of future generations of health professionals. Moreover, it is noteworthy that patient consent is not required before presenting a case at institutional grand rounds or discussing it with other consultants. “We recognize that certain case reports cannot ensure patient anonymity, and a signed patient consent form may be required. However, in instances in which patient anonymity is ensured, is it ethical to block the dissemination of medical knowledge by strictly enforcing the requirement of patient consent for publication of case reports? Would such actions affect medical professionals’ ability to learn, teach, and then serve?” authors asked the medical community.