A specialist society wishes to post “case of the month” on the society website. The society is not proposing to obtain patient consent from all patients, but will anonymise the case reports instead. It has been suggested a case might be anonymised by changing details including age, occupation, or gender. It has also suggested that there is often much to learn from patients who have died, from whom consent would not be possible. Is this approach reasonable?
- To do this would be in breach of the UK General Medical Council guidelines.
- Rendering the patients anonymous is not enough.
- If a patient has died, permission is not required, but should be obtained from the next of kin as a courtesy.
- The facts regarding age, occupation and gender could not be altered.
The editor was advised that patient consent must be obtained, and that patient details must not be modified in an attempt to provide anonymity. The specialist society will inform authors that they must obtain signed patient consent before cases can be published.