CMAJ board member quits, editorial independence questioned

Dr. Jerome Kassirer, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, submits letter of resignation to president of Canadian Medical Association, citing doubts in editorial autonomy at its journal.

A fourth member of the editorial board of the Canadian Medical Association Journal has resigned over editorial independence at the publication.

Dr. Jerome Kassirer, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, sent a letter of resignation to the president of the association.

Kassirer said he doubts editorial autonomy will be respected at the journal.

"You have demonstrated unequivocally that the current leaders of the Canadian Medical Association are incapable of allowing a first-class academically credible journal to flourish, and thus that the CMA is unfit for ownership," Kassirer said in his resignation letter to CMA president Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai.

"I fully appreciate that a single resignation is unlikely to have a salutary effect. Nonetheless, I can no longer associate with an organization whose leaders are so disrespectful of openness and so committed to hidden agendas."

This is the latest in a string of events at the journal. On Feb. 20, publisher Graham Morris abruptly fired editor Dr. John Hoey and senior deputy editor Anne Marie Todkill.

Kassirer said the firings "indefinitely marred the trust of readers in the content of the CMAJ."

In a commentary published in the journal's online edition on Feb. 28, Kassirer and other members of the editorial board said the CMA suppressed politically sensitive stories. The association represents doctors across Canada.

Morris has said the journal wanted to make "some changes in emphasis," and the dismissals weren't related to concerns over specific stories or Hoey's approach.

Hoey, Todkill and three other editors who resigned since the firings are unable to talk about their reasons for leaving because of a confidentiality agreement.

Last week, the CMA announced Antonio Lamer, a retired chief justice of the Supreme Court, will head a panel to study governance at the journal.

The 95-year-old journal is considered the leading Canadian medical journal.