‘Negligence’ — a lot of it — leads to a retraction


Some words do more work in sentences than others. Take the example of the word  “negligence,” which in the case of the following retraction notice is a veritable beast of burden.

The 2019 article, “Conservative management of subglottic stenosis with home based tracheostomy care: A retrospective review of 28 patients,” appeared in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, an Elsevier title. The authors, led by Andrew Pelser, have affiliations in the United Kingdom and South Africa — a fact that appears to be non-trivial. 

Per the abstract: 

Tracheostomy dependent children with inadequate airways due to subglottic stenosis (SGS) present a challenging problem. … Having previously pursued a programme of surgical intervention, since the late 1970s the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RXH) in Cape Town in South Africa’s Western Cape Province has operated a default policy of HBTC [home based tracheostomy care] in anticipation of improvement with time. There is a relative paucity of information regarding managing children with SGS. This carefully managed programme, led by an experienced and dedicated paediatric ENT nursing Sister, advocates HBTC as a viable treatment option while facilitating the socialization, development and safe management of the children. It has been observed in certain cases that the children may outgrow their requirement for tracheostomy without the need for surgical intervention with the associated risks and complications. We present the results of a retrospective review of a 24-year period (1986–2010) of SGS patients managed with HBTC alone, with particular reference to whether children managed in this way outgrow their stenosis leading to safe tracheostomy decannulation without the need for surgical intervention. Through statistical analysis, we discuss predictive factors for successful decannulation in children who outgrew tracheostomy dependency.

Evidently, the paper — which was cited once, according to Clarivate Analaytics’ Web of Science — was deeply flawed. According to the retraction notice

This paper is being retracted at the request of the Editor in Chief due to the authors’ negligence in assigning authorship, assigning proper Institute ethics reviews, assigning country of origin and making claims concerning the use of data which could not be substantiated.

Negligence just pulled a muscle. 

The paper claims that: 

Ethical approval was obtained through the University of Stellenbosch Research Ethics Committee. All data was anonymised, encrypted and stored securely on the hospital server.

We emailed the authors to find out if they agreed with the retraction, as well as how they might have neglected to do what they evidently failed to do. We also emailed the journal for more information about the paper. So far, no replies. 

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