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Future of Canadian Medical Association Journal Threatened

Weeks after the firing of editor-in –chief, John Hoey, the Canadian Medical Association journal appears to be still embroiled in controversies//. The February firing of Dr. Hoey and senior deputy editor Anne Marie Todkill had resulted in an international controversy regarding the editorial independence of medical journals.

Dr Hoey was dismissed after the journal ran several articles and editorials that sparked anger among the medical association executives. According to Dr Hoey “Any medical journal belongs, intellectually and morally, to its contributors, editors, editorial boards and readers — a sort of constituent assembly.”

In spite of repeated requests the editorial staff of the CMAJ did not have any written rules for editorial independence unlike most other medical journals. A series of skirmishes between the association and the editorial staff with the final one being about the on-line edition about the new federal Health Minister, Tony Clement, resulted in the dismissal of Dr Hoey and the senior deputy editor.

An avalanche of resignations and international condemnation followed their dismissal. The fallout proved to be unplanned when it became clear that the Association did not have any planned interim editor.

More importantly Canada’s top medical researchers, doctors and ordinary Canadians were no longer certain that the most prominent medical journal in Canada continue to challenge the medical profession without being compromised by the pharmaceutical companies which advertised in its pages.

Dr. Hoey and Ms. Todkill had signed confidentiality agreements, which prevented them from speaking freely about conflicts that they had the CMA. However they have mentioned that when they were fired on Feb 20 they were not given any reason.

Although the CMA refuses to say why the two were fired, they insist that it had nothing to do with editorial independence. This week many respected scientists anno unced that unless the journal clarified the events surrounding the dismissal of Dr. Hoey and Ms. Todkill they would not be submitting their research to it.

In the meantime, for the first time, the CMA has adopted a written policy granting editorial independence for the journal, early last month, with an oversight committee that would not be dominated by CMA members. This was followed by the appointment of Noni MacDonald, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax as interim editor for three months.

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