Study of child with rare cancer retracted due to lack of parental consent

Researchers in Ireland have retracted a case study about a rare type of cancer in a child because – contrary to what they claimed in the paper – they had not obtained the necessary permission from the parents.

In the June 2016 article, the authors stated they had received “written informed consent” from the parents to publish the case. But according to the retraction notice — issued just a few months later in October — that was not the case.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Paediatric Ewing-like sarcoma arising from the cranium – a unique diagnostic challenge,” which for legal reasons, the publisher has withdrawn from public view:

This article [1] has been retracted by the authors because, contrary to the statement in the article, they did not obtain the necessary written informed consent from the patient’s parents to publish this case. The article is no longer available online in order to protect the patient’s privacy. The authors have agreed to the retraction.

Even though Diagnostic Pathology removed the paper, we found a copy online; indeed, as the retraction notice states, the authors write that they received consent from the parents:

Written informed consent was obtained from the patient’s parents for publication of this case report and any accompanying images. A copy of the written consent is available for review by the Editor-in-Chief of this journal.

We reached out to first author Ian J. Robertson at Mayo General Hospital in Ireland and last author M. Kevin Barry, affiliated with both Mayo and the National University of Ireland, for clarification on the consent issue. We contacted the journal’s editor-in-chief Anil Parwani as well; a spokesperson for the publisher BioMed Central responded on Parwani’s behalf, referring us to the retraction notice.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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One thought on “Study of child with rare cancer retracted due to lack of parental consent”

  1. I wonder if these issues are arising because the researchers were relying on a broad consent agreement signed when a child was first hospitalized. That might serve well enough when the child is part of a wide-ranging research protocol involving many children. But that might not be enough for parents when their child becomes the central focus of a research article.

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