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Minimizing the Risk of Libel

Chapter:
Ethical and Legal Considerations
Author(s):

Annette Flanagin

Minimizing the Risk of Libel

The suggestions in this section are offered to help authors, editors, and publishers reduce the risk of libel in biomedical publication. All statements of fact about individuals or commercial entities should be supported or documented and verified to be accurate in the context in which they were and are made. Similarly, statements of opinion should be supported, or based on documented facts, and should not be malicious. In addition, authors should disclose any conflicts of interest or concerns about the potential reactions of those criticized to the editor so that the editor and author work together to ensure responsible publication (see also 5.5, Conflicts of Interest). Editors should consider offering those who are criticized in a submitted manuscript an opportunity to review the material of concern before publication, or to respond to the criticism after publication, or both. In addition, editors should consult experienced media attorneys when necessary, and publishers should have insurance covering claims for libel. None of these suggestions will ensure that a lawsuit—even if frivolous or groundless—will not be made, but they should help editors, authors, and publishers avoid situations in which such claims have merit.

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