Webeditorial 8


By Paul Komersaroff

Response to: "Evading responsibility to readers and third parties: how an international bioethics journal failed to correct the record of publication." by Karen Shashok

The views and opinions expressed in this webeditorial are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent those of the European Medical Writers Association or its Executive Committee. 

In science and scientific writing the first rule is to ensure that the facts you are reporting are correct. For this reason the editorial by Karen Shashok entitled “Evading responsibility to readers and third parties: how an international bioethics journal failed to correct the record of publication” (EMWA http://www.emwa.org/Home/Webeditorial-7.html) raises major concerns. The article contains significant omissions and misstatements, including most importantly its false, central claim, that the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (JBI) published misleading information about one of your members, Mr Adam Jacobs, and then refused to correct the record of publication.

The deficiencies of Shashok’s editorial are the more egregious because she is well aware of the facts, as I have provided them to her myself. What is more, despite the considerable length of her article she not only fails to explain what the nature of the complaint against the Journal was but neglects to provide an accurate account of her own correspondence with us. There is no dispute that this matter raises significant issues; however, they are somewhat different from those that seem to concern Shashok and Jacobs, as this article will show.

I believe that your readers are entitled to a straightforward and accurate summary of the case, which I will provide in this response. However, I wish to emphasise forcefully at the outset a point which is central to the entire imbroglio. Mr Jacobs wrote to the journal threatening legal action for libel and demanding a correction of what he claimed were false and misleading statements about his company. The JBI has a principle on which we are admittedly inflexible: that debates about ethics cannot be conducted under threat, whether of legal action or any other kind of force. If someone wishes to take legal action and seek to recover damages through the courts it is their right to do so. However, this is not a setting which permits reasoned and peaceful discourse leading to an amicable overcoming of differences. As readers will see from what follows, Jacobs’ refusal to withdraw his threat of legal action was the key stumbling block to what should have been a simple resolution of this issue. For the record, I have advised the European Medical Writers Association that my entry into this debate is free from any threats by ourselves of legal action in respect of the false allegations that have been made against us.

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