BMJ Censorship Complaint

Recovery In The Bin complained to BMJ (details below) on 3rd November 2015. They never responded in spite of being sent four e-mail reminders.

Dear Editors,

Recovery in the Bin, an Internet based group with a large following, is writing to express its disappointment and concerns about your decision not to publish a piece by ‘SECTIONED’ in 7 November 2015 issue, which focused on coercion in psychiatry. The BMJ effectively implemented a policy of censorship by demanding a number of deletions of what is regarded as legally sensitive content, as a condition for publication.

These deletions included key testimonies of service user experiences of coercion and force in psychiatric hospitals. We believe it is essential that your readership hears about the nature of this coercion, especially as detainment under the Mental Health Act has risen by 10% in England, data collected by Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

This Group profoundly objects to the author being told that they could not mention their personal experiences of forced treatment unless the staff involved had been prosecuted. This represents a disproportionately high threshold for submission, thus preventing genuine exposure of unethical practice being aired in a spirit of openness and learning. We believe on the contrary that the BMJ should be leading the way by drawing attention to these experiences, in a truthful fashion, and we perceive the risks of being sued for doing so is very doubtful. It is in fact more likely that such testimonies would be dismissed as the expression of someone’s ‘paranoia’, ‘illness’ and ‘delusion’.

While this Group has always believed that the BMJ’s vocation was to disseminate robust research findings and experiences of shared learning, with a view to modify and improve clinical practice, it appears to us that in this instance the BMJ’s judgement is at odds with its own principles and objectives. This raises the following questions: Is the BMJ lacking foresight in its refusal to support difficult experiences that show up the failings of the mental health system? Would it act in the same way had the author of the piece been a mental health practitioner?

We look forward to reading your response.

Yours Sincerely,

Recovery In The Bin (Mental Health Group)