Friday 30 October 2015

BMJ refuses to print article ahead of smoking ban debate

As I mentioned yesterday, I'll be debating whether psychiatric hospitals should ban smoking outdoors next month. My debating partner will be a former service user known by the Twitter handle @Sectioned_ (hereafter known as S).

A few weeks we both received an e-mail from the British Medical Journal asking whether we'd write an article putting our case, to be published alongside an article by the proposition. Ever since the BMJ started commissioning hatchet jobs against people who disagree with them on policy I have wanted nothing to do them so I didn't reply, but S agreed to write a piece for them.

Her article was submitted in good time. I saw it yesterday and it is a powerful, well written piece. However, the BMJ demanded a series of last minute deletions and edits on grounds which strike me as being spurious. As a result, it will not be published. Despite the BMJ's claims about potential legal difficulties with the article, a different journal has offered to publish it, but it will be many weeks before they do so and the London debate will be a distant memory by then.

The BMJ has objected to S's description of coercion in psychiatric care, despite not naming the institution in which she was a patient. As she explains (in this blog post)...

The justification for these deletions is that, the BMJ claims, I will be identifiable at the Maudsley public debate; that staff on the ward where I was detained may be in the audience; that they may recognise me all these years later; and that the NHS trust responsible for the ward where I was detained could sue the BMJ for libel. To try to accommodate those concerns, I offered a number of different forms of alternative wording. I offered, in place of the deletions, the phrase “BMJ legal advice says I may not refer in this article to other experiences on ward or the impact it has had on me.” I offered to sit on the panel wearing a face mask. I offered to sit in the room next door to the lecture theatre – the room where a patient can sit if their case is presented to doctors or medical students and speak via video link – and participate in the debate via video link with my back to the camera. BMJ refused. It was the deletions in their entirety, or nothing.

Go read the whole post.

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