Professor A and professor B has been in a dispute over a certain type of treatment for over 15 years. Professor A has accused professor B of killing a patient while he was (in professor A’s view) doing research on the patient without consent. Professor B has accused professor A of research and publication misconduct because he published a paper in journal X in 1994 that included a selected group of patients from a paper already published and a selected group of patients from professor A’s hospital that had not given consent to be part of a research project. Professor A has claimed that his patients were not part of a research project, since the treatment he gave them was available to all at that time. Both cases were handled by the national board of research misconduct at the time (in 1996). The conclusion (briefly) was that none of them had behaved unethically, but that they could have done it differently.
Last year this debate “reopened” when professor A published a book were he portrayed himself as a whistleblower and told about how the hospital and the medical community had tried to “hide” the fact that professor B had in fact killed a patient while he was doing research on the patient without consent. In the debate that followed, several things were written from both “sides”. In professor B’s opinion, professor A has throughout this last debate actually admitted that the patients he included in his 1994 paper were part of a research project and that they had not given consent. He now asks the editor of journal X to retract this paper. What should the editor do?
The Forum agreed that there were no grounds for retraction of the paper. Given the very public nature of this case and the fact that it has been thoroughly aired in the public domain, the advice was to do nothing. The editor should consider the case closed. The Forum also advised against publishing any more letters of correspondence.