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Patient consent

Special considerations

  • Patients' and research subjects' names, initials, hospital or social security numbers, dates of birth or other personal or identifying information should not be used.

  • Images of patients or research subjects should not be used unless the information is essential for scientific purposes and explicit permission has been given as part of the consent. Even where consent has been given, identifying details should be omitted if they are not essential.

  • If identifying characteristics are altered to protect anonymity, authors should provide assurances that such alterations do not distort scientific meaning.

Non-identifiable images

  • Formal consents are not required for the use of entirely anonymized images from which the individual cannot be identified- for example, x-rays, ultrasound images, pathology slides or laparoscopic images, provided that these do not contain any identifying marks and are not accompanied by text that might identify the individual concerned. Although formal consents are not required, it is good practice and a matter of courtesy for the author to inform the patient that their images will be used in a scientific publication. (This does not apply to case reports where informed consent is always required whether or not the images are anonymised).

  • For case reports, while details that might identify a patient, or that might enable a patient to identify him or herself, should be eliminated, complete anonymity cannot always be guaranteed and therefore informed consent should be obtained for all case reports. This also applies for case reports of deceased persons where consent should be obtained from the nominated representative(s) if it was not provided by the individual. If consent has not been obtained, it is generally not sufficient to anonymize a photograph simply by using eye bars or blurring the face of the individual concerned.