Consent for publishing medical case reports

General principles

  • Publication consent forms should be required for any case report in which an individual or a group of individuals can be identified. This requirement also applies when a report involves deceased persons. Examples of identifying information are descriptions of individual case histories, photos, x-rays, or genetic pedigrees. A list of 23 potential identifiers has been published in BioMed Central’s Trials.
  • Journals should not themselves collect the signed consent forms, because the receipt and storage of confidential patient information could subject them to cumbersome security requirements and potential legal liability under applicable privacy or patient information laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 in the USA.
  • Journals should make a blank copy of the form available on their website and require authors to attest that it, or a form that includes all the elements of the form, has been signed by the patient or a proxy.
  • If the patient or proxy has signed a form that differs from the form adopted by a journal, a blank copy of the form should be provided to the journal so that they can ascertain whether all the required elements were included.
  • Authors should also attest that the original of the signed form is held by the treating institution.