A manuscript was submitted from UK authors. The study was a case series of infants with a particular condition. A table in the manuscript contains descriptive data which are critically important for the readers with respect to understanding the risk of this condition in young infants and the likelihood of abuse.
The question is whether this table violates the law with respect to confidentiality/privacy. No IRB was obtained (case series/QI project). No consent was available from individual patients.
COPE’s advice would be appreciated.
Similar to case 07-10, members of the Forum felt the same issues of confidentiality and public interest applied in this case. Most were in agreement that consent would not be obtained, and as there was a chance that one or more infants could be identified from the data, the paper should not be published. Some of the members of the Forum suggested that perhaps the paper could be presented as a multivariate statistical analysis, removing individual identifying data. If this is not possible, the Forum again advised that the editor should consider not only the ethical and legal consequences involved in deciding to publish, but also the data protection issues.
The paper was withdrawn.