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In 2001 my colleagues and I published an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled ‘The value of taking an “ethics history”.’1 In this article we coined the term an ‘ethics history’, to describe a series of questions that could be used as an addendum to medical history taking in a clinical context. These questions were:
We took this history from 56 competent patients, and showed that taking an ‘ethics history’ is a simple and not particularly time-consuming way of obtaining useful information about patients' preferences. That was why we did not need to question its value in the title.
The June JRSM included an article by Das and Mulley entitled ‘The value of an ethics history?’2 in which these authors suggest that an ‘ethics history’ could be taken in an outpatient setting. They propose/offer seven key questions which incorporate (with minor modification) all of the questions from our original article, yet no acknowledgment of the source is given. They also fail to acknowledge the source of their idea—an ‘ethics history’—although the title of their article is virtually peeled off ours.
I would appreciate an explanation for these irregularities.
Our review was inspired in large measure by the original work of Dr Sayers and her colleagues, to which we did refer. Somehow, in the course of repeated redrafting, we lost the passage that made clear our aim—to echo their recommendations and offer further points for consideration. We apologize unreservedly for this error.