The practice of guest authorship in medical journals should be deemed as a legal fraud, say law experts.
Simon Stern and Trudo Lemmens of the Faculties of Law and Medicine at the University of Toronto have questioned the practice of ghostwriting of medical journal articles, saying it adversely affects the integrity of medical research and scientific evidence used in legal disputes.
Writing in the journal PLoS Medicine, the authors said medical journals, academic institutions, and professional disciplinary bodies have failed to enforce effective sanctions to curb guest authorship.
They suggested that the practice of ghost- writing should be deterred by imposing legal liability on the "guest authors" of the ghostwritten articles.
"We argue that a guest author's claim for credit of an article written by someone else constitutes legal fraud, and may give rise to claims that could be pursued in a class action based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act [RICO]", the authors said.
"The same fraud could support claims of "fraud on the court" against a pharmaceutical company that has used ghostwritten articles in litigation. This claim also appropriately reflects the negative impact of ghostwriting on the legal system," they added.