Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Plan B fallout at the CMAJ

The Canadian Medical Association has dismissed the top two editors of the Canadian Medical Association Journal over a dispute concerning the journal's coverage of privacy violations Canadian women experienced when obtaining Plan B.

The article, which was published late last year, reported that Canadian women seeking Plan B at pharmacies across Canada were routinely asked for personal information, sometimes including sexual history, before being given the over-the-counter pill. This information was entered into computer databases.

The publishers of the journal, CMA Media, headed by Graham Morris, demanded that substantial portions of the article be cut -- including the description of the experiences of the women. Its rationale? That the account of the women's experiences did not constitute reporting but that it amounted to scientific research and hence required peer review prior to publication.

Of course, there's no reason to believe that any of this has to do with information reporting standards and peer review. Rather, CMA's action is a blatant instance of top-down political bias compromising the editorial independence -- and hence, the integrity -- of the CMAJ.

When heads start rolling at Canada's self-described leading medical journal over semantics, you can bet it's political.

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