Any article that contains personal medical information about an identifiable living individual requires the patient’s explicit consent before we can publish it.
If consent cannot be obtained because the patient cannot be traced, then publication will be possible only if the information can be sufficiently anonymized. Anonymization means that neither the patient nor anyone else could identify the patient with certainty.
A consequence of anonymization is likely to be the loss of information or evidence.
If the patient is a minor but capable of understanding what is being asked, please obtain a signed form from both the patient and his or her parent or guardian.
If the patient is dead, the Data Protection Act does not apply, but the authors should seek permission from a relative (as a matter of courtesy and medical ethics).
Our policy on obtaining consent for the publication of pictures of patients is a subset of our general policy on patient confidentiality. If there is any chance that a patient may be identified from a photograph or other image or from its legend or the accompanying text, then we will need to have the patient’s written consent to publish the paper in the Journal.
Images—such as X-rays, laparoscopic images, ultrasound images, pathology slides, or images of unrecognizable parts of the body—may be used without consent as long as they have been anonymized through the removal of any identifying marks, and are not accompanied by text that could reveal the patient’s identity through clinical or personal detail.
An exception to the policy of needing consent for recognizable photographs of individuals is when we use photographs from picture agencies to illustrate news stories and other articles. We always cite the source of such photographs, namely, the people shown in the photographs. If we doubt that someone in a particular photograph could have given consent (for example, due to severe mental illness or a learning disability), we use discretion and avoid such images.
Gut and Liver aims to ensure that all articles published in its journals report on work that is morally acceptable; authors are expected to follow the World Association’s Helsinki Declaration guidelines (http://www.wma.net). The research protocol for each paper must have been approved by the relevant local ethics committee; informed consent must have been obtained from all subjects (or their guardians).
Authors must explicitly state that the necessary ethics committee approval has been secured for the research reported on. This fact should also be explicitly stated in the manuscript and authors should include the name and location of the approving ethics committee(s). The critical assessment of submitted papers will include ethical considerations.
Where there is any doubt about research ethics approval, the Editor may request copies of the correspondence between the authors and the research ethics committee and may also contact the Chair directly.
There are differing definitions of scientific misconduct. We deal with such problems on a case-by-case basis, following guidance produced by bodies that include the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) (http://publicationethics.org/guidelines), the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).
WAME gives a useful overview of the issue of misconduct, using a slightly amended version of the US Office of Research Integrity definition of scientific misconduct, and including the following behaviors:
The Research Ethics Committee of Gut and Liver (hereafter, “the Committee”) reviews research ethics cases that relate to the publication of the journal and related papers (original articles, case reports, review articles and others). We take seriously all possible cases of misconduct.
If an editor has concerns that a submitted article describes something that might be considered misconduct in any aspect of research, publication, or professional behavior, we may discuss the case in confidence with the Committee.
When research ethics violations occur, the chair of the Committee should call a meeting immediately to review the situation, and should report the results to the Executive Committee.
The Committee should keep any investigation of ethics violations confidential, and should not oppose the interests of the Journal.
Upon completion of the investigation, the Committee will determine the level of punishment appropriate for the violator (author or corresponding author), based on the level of violation—the Council can prohibit publication in the Journal for a specified period of time, or exclude the violator permanently.
The Council keeps a record of the investigation and the results of the ethical misconduct.
If the Council confirms ethical misconduct in a paper, the Executive Committee will announce the case and withdraw the paper. If the paper has already been published in the Journal, it will be deleted from the Journal’s list of published papers; this will be announced to the members of the Gut and Liver and Korean GI communities.