Clinical Image Consent Requirements: Variability among Top Ten Medical Journals

Clinical Image Consent Requirements: Variability among Top Ten Medical Journals
Juan N. Lessing, Nicholas M. Mark, Matthew K. Wynia, Ethan Cumbler
Journal of Academic Ethics, 21 June 2019; pp 1–5
Abstract
The consent process for publication of clinical images in medical journals varies widely. The extent of this variation is not known. It is also not known whether journals follow their own stated best practices or the guidance of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). We assessed consent requirements in a sample of 10 top impact factor general medicine journals that publish clinical images, examining variability in consent requirements for clinical image publication and congruence of requirements with the recommendations of the ICMJE. Clinical image consent requirements varied widely from journal to journal. None of the studied journals, even amongst n = 4 ICMJE members or n = 8 journals who self-report adherence to ICMJE guidelines, comply with all of the recommendations of the ICMJE. Half of studied journals require a journal-specific consent form. Among top medical journals there is significant heterogeneity in consent requirements for clinical images. Variability of consent requirements is neither practical nor rational; inconsistent requirements create uncertainty for authors, present impediments to dissemination of scholarship, and undermine a shared professional understanding of how best to protect patient privacy. We propose adopting a standardized consent form and process for publication of identifiable images in medical journals, with uniform elements and explicit definitions.

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