Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Lancet Confirms Haiti Mortality Study Findings

2007 Elsevier Ltd

All Rights Reserved

The Lancet

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February 3, 2007 – February 9, 2007

SECTION: Pg. 355 Vol. 369 No. 9559 ISSN: 0140-6736

LENGTH: 494 words

HEADLINE: Clarification: Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

BYLINE: Richard Horton a; William Summerskill a

BODY:

Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households was published online on Aug 31, 2006, and in print on Sept 2, 2006.1 Within days, The Lancet was informed that co-author Athena Kolbe had previously written about Haiti as a journalist under the name of Lyn Duff. Because Kolbe had worked as a volunteer at an orphanage in Haiti founded by President Aristide and had written sympathetically about Aristide after he was deposed,2 concerns were expressed about the paper’s findings.

In response to credible allegations that one author’s former activities might constitute an undisclosed conflict of interest, The Lancet began an inquiry.3 The authors’ institution, Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan, USA) was asked to investigate the matter, and the issue was referred to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Eileen Trzcinski, Professor and Interim Director of Research at Wayne State University School of Social Work, audited 100 questionnaires selected by computerised randomisation. Outcome details on the original handwritten records corresponded with the project’s computerised database. The overall distribution of rapes and murders were re-analysed according to alleged perpetrators, and the results agreed with the published findings. Outcomes were then compared by political affiliation of the interviewer and for Kolbe’s own data (as an interviewer). Again, there was no evidence of systematic bias. On the basis of this investigation, The Lancet has confidence in Kolbe and Hutson’s findings as published.

COPE recommended that readers should be made aware that Athena Kolbe had published as a reporter under the name of Lyn Duff, and that failure to disclose a separate name, under which relevant material had been published and cited in her Lancet paper, constitutes an undeclared conflict of interest. The Lancet’s position on transparent disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is in accordance with guidelines established by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.4 The Lancet has made this position prominently available to readers5 and to authors,6 and stated clearly that incomplete disclosures will be amended in a published statement in the Department of Error section, which will also be linked electronically to the publication in electronic databases. Such a correction for this study appears in today’s Lancet.

To realise their full potential to benefit populations, research findings must influence practice. Intelligent debate is part of that process. The Lancet encourages genuine debate, and will always consider seriously allegations of scientific misconduct. It is unfortunate, however, that in this case much of the debate was aimed at exploiting historical divisions in Haiti. That process has obscured the message of Kolbe and Hutson’s research and detracted from the real issue-the welfare of civilians in Haiti-to whom attention should now turn.

NOTES: AFFILIATION:

a The Lancet, London NW1 7BY, UK

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

References

1 A Kolbe, R Hutson, Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households, Lancet, Vol. 368, 2006, p. 864-873, .

2 L Duff, Jean Bertrand Aristide: humanist or despot? Pacific News Service March 2, 2004, http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/43a/666.html, (accessed Dec 8, 2006), .

3 D Campbell, Lancet caught up in row over Haiti murders, Guardian, Sept 8, 2006, http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1867372,00.html, (accessed Jan 24, 2007), .

4 International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals: writing and editing for biomedical publication, http://www.icmje.org, February, 2006, (accessed Jan 24, 2007), .

5 A James, R Horton, The Lancet, ‘s policy on conflicts of interest, Lancet, Vol. 361, 2003, p. 8-9, .

6 The Lancet, Information for authors, http://www.thelancet.com/authors/lancet/authorinfo, (accessed Jan 24, 2007), .

Copyright 2007 Elsevier Ltd

All Rights Reserved

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February 3, 2007 – February 9, 2007

SECTION: Pg. 370 Vol. 369 No. 9559 ISSN: 0140-6736

LENGTH: 56 words

HEADLINE: Department of Error

BODY:

Kolbe AR, Hutson RA. Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households. Lancet 2006; 368: 864-73-In this Article (Sept 2, 2006), the conflict of interest statement should have included: “Athena Kolbe has also written under the name Lyn Duff. Lyn Duff is cited in references 2 and 19.”

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