Canadian Medical Association Journal fires 2 editors

Canadian Medical Association Journal fires its editor-in-chief and senior deputy editor. The editors had been at odds with their bosses over editorial freedom, sources say.

The editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal has been fired, along with his senior deputy editor, CBC News has learned.

Dr. John Hoey and his deputy, Anne Marie Todkill, were pushed out over questions of editorial freedom, sources say.

There are also suggestions the journal's publisher, CMA Media Inc. – a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association – was unhappy with Hoey's editorial stance on private health care.

The first public controversy between Hoey and the journal's owner resulted from an investigative news story on ease of access to the "morning-after" pill from pharmacists, part of which was quashed by the publisher.

Hoey responded to changes to the story by writing an editorial condemning the medical association's interference with editorial autonomy. He also struck a panel to look at the issue.

Private health care

Dr. Jerome Kassirer, the head of the panel, said the immediate cause of Hoey's firing may be a story published online earlier in February headlined "Two-tier Tony Clement appointed new minister of health."

The article suggested Clement, the new federal health minister, would be friendly to private health care.

"There's no question that private health care could be a boon for Canadian physicians and that the CMA probably would want to support privatization," said Kassirer, who is also a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"Any argument against that by critics is likely to be seen as counter-productive to the goals of the CMA."

The Clement story never made it into the printed journal and has since been pulled from the CMAJ website.

When Clement was Ontario's health minister in 2001, he gave a speech to the Empire Club supporting more choice in getting health care.

CMA's media publisher, Graham Morris, denies concerns over specific stories or that Hoey's approach led to the firing.

"Nothing specifically about his approach, but we feel there are some changes in emphasis that we would like to make in the journal," said Morris. "We felt this is the time to make the change."

Morris wouldn't elaborate on what changes he wants. He said he stands behind the principle of editorial independence.