The press coverage of the fetal pain study left out something: Well, actually, the study itself left something out.
In today's Journal of the American Medical Association, five researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, review nearly 2,000 studies on the hotly debated questions. They conclude that legislative proposals to allow fetal pain relief during abortion are not justified by scientific evidence.
But their seven-page article has a weakness: It does not mention that one author is an abortion clinic director, while the lead author - Susan J. Lee, a medical student - once worked for NARAL Pro-Choice America.
JAMA editor-in-chief Catherine D. DeAngelis said she was unaware of this, and acknowledged it might create an appearance of bias that could hurt the journal's credibility. "This is the first I've heard about it," she said. "We ask them to reveal any conflict of interest. I would have published" the disclosure if it had been made.
UCSF obstetrician-gynecologist Eleanor A. Drey, medical director of the abortion clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, said: "We thought it was critical to include an expert in abortion among the authors. I think my presence... should not serve to politicize a scholarly report."