NEJM: Interim Editor Helps Reach Accord
The 10-day controversy between the Massachusetts Medical Society and its "flagship" New England Journal of Medicine over use of the prestigious publication's name has been settled, with the society agreeing not to propagate the journal's name as it had planned. Wednesday's agreement was brokered by Dr. Marcia Angell, whom the society named interim editor-in-chief yesterday in the wake of their dismissing former editor-in-chief Dr. Jerome Kassirer over the dispute. Angell, the former executive editor, agreed to take the position on a temporary basis, saying she "would leave to teach and write after the new editor is named." Angell also insisted on complete editorial independence for the journal, meaning the society "cannot use the journal's name or logo in any other way on its products or marketing campaigns without the editor's permission" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/5). That agreement ended speculation that the society would capitalize on the journal's name to create a line of new specialty journals, with names such as the "New England Journal of Cardiology," which would print the magazine's rejected studies. The society, however, can indicate that other publications are "'from the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine,' even over the editor's objections." Even so, Angell said, "[T]his is very hopeful. The society has signed on to some very strong principles. [T]his is going to protect the journal even when I'm not here" (Lasalandra, Boston Herald, 8/5). The Boston Globe reports that the editorial staff will also approve content for a consumer-oriented version of the journal scheduled to appear this fall on Healthgate.com. Members of the journal's editorial staff "expressed relief" at the outcome, many of whom had feared the dispute would make it difficult "to meet the journal's weekly publication schedule" (Knox, Boston Globe, 8/5). George Annas, a medical ethicist at Boston University, said, "It would have been a disaster if they couldn't have signed her. The medical society should be jumping for joy. That they can get her to stay around is a major coup for them" (Boston Herald, 8/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.