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Instructions for Authors

For guidelines on policy and submission across our journals, please click on the links below:
Manuscript preparation
Editorial policies
Patient consent forms
Licence forms
Peer review
Submission and production processes

Editorial Policy

The Journal of Medical Ethics aims at being the pre-eminent medical ethics journal with high quality articles relevant to all those interested in medical ethics, particularly to health care professionals, members of clinical ethics committees, medical ethics professionals, researchers and bioscientists, policy makers and patients.

We welcome original papers form any part of the world, from all philosophical traditions and approaches, as well as interesting empirical studies.

Papers should be written in a non-specialist language and should ideally be readable by any well informed individual, in particular by both the non-philosophically trained health care professional and the philosopher with no practical health care experience. For our part the Editors will:

  • Ensure that all important issues in medical ethics are welcome in the journal.
  • Ensure that a fair, independent peer review system is in place.
  • Adhere to the highest ethical standards concerning editorial and research conduct.

Please read our policy on Plagiarism, Plagiarism detection and Scientific Misconduct.

Submission to Journal of Medical Ethics implies that the work described has not been accepted for publication elsewhere, that it is not under consideration for publication elsewhere and does not duplicate material already published.

Open Access

Authors can choose to have their article published Open Access for a fee of £1,950 (plus applicable VAT).

Language Polishing Service

If you are not a native English speaker, we recommend that you have your manuscript edited by a native speaker prior to submission. Professional editing will improve the grammar, spelling and punctuation of your manuscript, providing clear language which will mean that reviewers and editors are better able to concentrate on the scientific content of the paper. Click here for more information.

Peer Review at Journal of Medical Ethics

Please read this section carefully before beginning to submit your paper.

Journal of Medical Ethics operates double-blind peer review which requires authors to submit an anonymous version of their manuscript file (to be uploaded as the Manuscript File including abstract):

This file should be anonymous and should NOT include:

  • Any author names (including file path in document footer)
  • Author institution details
  • Author contact details
  • Acknowledgements
  • Competing interests (if declared)
  • Ethics approval statements that refer to your institution
  • Please ensure tracked changes are switched off if previously used; this file will be automatically converted to PDF once uploaded through the online submission system (Scholar One) and will be made available to the reviewers

Reference Formatting

Please ensure references meet the submission requirements otherwise your submission will be returned to you for correction.

Referencing should follow the BMJ style, details can be found here:

Legal material
Toxic substances Contro Act: Hearing on S776 Before the Subcommittee of the Environment of the Senate Comm. on Commerce, 94th Congress 1st September (1975).

Washington v Glucksberg 521 US 702 (1997)

Law references
The two main series of law reports, Weekly Law Reports (WLR) and All England Law Reports (All ER) have three volumes a year.
For example:
Robertson v Post Office [1974] 1 WLR 1176

Ashcroft v Mersey Regional Health Authority [1983] 2 All ER 245

R v Clarence [1868] 22 QBD 23

Wimpey Construction UK Ltd v Poole (1984) Times, 3 May

There are good historical precedents for the use of square and round brackets. Since 1891, round ones have referred to the date of the report, square ones to the date of publication of the report. Apart from not italicising the name of the case, we use the lawyers’ style; be careful with punctuation. Here are some more examples:

Caparo Industries plc v Dickman and others [1990] 1 All ER 568-608.

R v Clarence [1888] 22 QBD 23.

Finlayson v HMAdv 1978 SLT (Notes) 60

Block v Martin (1951) 4 DLR 121

Official Journal of the European Communities: at the top of the page it gives the No, vol, and page and, at the other side of the header, the date.
The abbreviation for the title is given in parentheses under the title. Jiggle these elements around to get, eg:
Council Directive of 14 June 1989. Offical Journal of the European Communities No L 1989 June 28:181/44-6. (89/831/EEC.

Treated the same way as acts and bills; eg, Italy's Law 180 of 1978


Journal of Medical Ethics does accept footnotes at the end of each page which should be denoted in superscript Roman numerals. There should be no more than around 30 words per footnote. Please be mindful of writing extensive footnotes when the content could be incorporated into the main text. References should be numbered and placed at the end of the article.

Article Types and Word Counts

The word count excludes the title page, abstract, tables, acknowledgements and contributions and the references. For guidance on how to improve your graphs and tables please view these BMJ demonstration videos.

Information on our publication turnaround times and acceptance rates can be found here.


These are commissioned only articles. Original papers should not be submitted under this article type.


These are commissioned-only articles. Original papers should not be submitted under this article type. They are generally not peer-reviewed.

  1. Word count: up to 1000
  2. Abstract: No abstract required
  3. Tables/illustrations: up to 2
  4. References: up to 10

Original Article Papers

This is the main category for original research papers on all topics including both philosophical papers and empirical studies. The main criteria for acceptance are originality, rigour and accessability and interest to a wide audience.

  1. Word count: up to 3500 words
  2. Abstract: up to 250 words
  3. Tables/Illustrations: up to 5, any more at editorial discretion
  4. References: up to 25

Original Article Papers - Extended Essays

This category is for original research papers which employ in-depth philosophical analysis in order to address an important policy- or practice-related normative question. The main criteria for acceptance are originality, rigour, accessibility, philosophical sophistication, and interest to a wide audience. The standards for being sent for review, and for eventual acceptance, are substantially higher than for ordinary papers. We expect to publish at most two such papers in any issue.

Purely or predominantly empirical papers will not be considered in this category and should instead be submitted as Brief Reports or, if they also include substantive ethical analysis, Papers.

  1. Word count: up to 7000 words
  2. Abstract: up to 250 words
  3. Tables/Illustrations: up to 5, any more at editorial discretion
  4. References: up to 50

Feature Articles

These articles are commissioned only. Feature articles should express the arguments of the authors (they will be signed) and be authorative and perhaps even provocative. They should be timely in that they will deal with subject matter where there has been important new advances which have implications for both research, clinical practice or society at large. While authors need not be systematic in their approach to the literature, they should aim to develop a theme, with clear, logical argumentation, with some vision of the future or practical import for medical ethics, broadly construed.

  1. Word count: up to 7000 words
  2. References: up to 30

We will generally run several 1000 word commentaries around the Feature Article. You are invited to suggest potential commentators. You will have the right to write a short response to commentators of less than 500 words.

Proposals for non-commissioned Feature Article submissions may be discussed in advance. Please email jme{at} with Feature Article proposals or suggestions.


Most reviews are commissioned but uninvited reviews are welcome. Original papers should not be submitted under this article type.

  1. Word count: up to 3500
  2. Abstract: up to 250 words
  3. Tables/illustrations: up to 5, any more at editorial discretion.
  4. References: up to 25

Brief Reports

This is the category for brief original arguments or results of empirical studies that can be stated succinctly.

  1. Word count: up to 1500 words.
  2. Abstract: up to 250 words.
  3. Tables/Illustrations: up to 2, any more at editorial discretion.
  4. References: up to 25


These are papers written in response to articles previously published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. They may be peer-reviewed at the editors' deiscretion, peer-reviewed letterswill be reviewed on a fast track for timely publication. This may include responses from authors who have been criticised in the Journal.

  1. Abstract: up to 250 words. Not structured
  2. Word count: 1500 words (up to 3500 words after discussion with Editor in Chief)
  3. Illustrations: at editorial discretion.
  4. References: up to 10

Ethics Abstract

These are commissioned only articles offered to authors following submissions where the topic or findings are considered to be of some interest to Journal of Medical Ethics readership but not at the level of a peer-reviewed article. Original papers should not be submitted under this article type. These resubmissions are not peer reviewed.

  1. Word count: up to 500
  2. Abstract: none
  3. Tables/illustrations: yes up to 1
  4. References: up to 3

Student Essays

Student Essays aim to encourage medical and other related students to consider ethical issues. They are peer-reviewed publications, and are expected to meet a high standard of originality and quality of argument, but reviewers are asked to employ a constructive review process, and may be selected for their experience in teaching. To qualify as a student essay, all the authors must be current students at the time of submission, usually on a medical or undergraduate course rather than at doctoral or other postgraduate level. Please include in the cover letter a brief description of your current course of study and previous qualifications so the editors can assess if this is the most appropriate category.

  1. Word count: up to 3500 words
  2. Abstract: up to 250 words
  3. Tables/Illustrations: up to 5, any more at editorial discretion
  4. References: up to 25

Current Controversy

This article should cover some current news item, legal case or recent advance of ethical signficance, together with identification and some analysis of ethical issues involved. Articles in this category undergo peer review, though where they discuss urgent issues the review process may be fast-tracked to ensure early publication.

  1. Word count: up to 3500 words
  2. Abstract: up to 250 words
  3. Tables/Illustrations: up to 5, any more at editorial discretion
  4. References: up to 25

View Point

These articles are academic papers which address an issue of current public or professional debate and/ or approach an issue from a more personal perspective than standard academic writing. Articles in this category undergo peer review, though where they discuss urgent issues the review process may be fast-tracked to ensure early publication.

  1. Word count: up to 3500 words
  2. Abstract: up to 250 words
  3. Tables/Illustrations: up to 5, any more at editorial discretion
  4. References: up to 25

Author Meets Critics

These occasional series of mini-symposia will consist of a summary of a new book (monograph) in Medical Ethics by the author, plus responses from 2 – 3 critics, each of no more than 1000 words. The author then responds. This is a commissioned only series: authors wishing their book to be the subject of an author meets critics symposia should contact the editors. Edited volumes are not eligible.


BMJ journals are willing to consider publishing supplements to regular issues. Supplement proposals may be made at the request of:

  1. The journal editor, an editorial board member or a learned society may wish to organise a meeting, sponsorship may be sought and the proceedings published as a supplement.
  2. The journal editor, editorial board member or learned society may wish to commission a supplement on a particular theme or topic. Again, sponsorship may be sought.
  3. The BMJ itself may have proposals for supplements where sponsorship may be necessary.
  4. A sponsoring organisation, often a pharmaceutical company or a charitable foundation, that wishes to arrange a meeting, the proceedings of which will be published as a supplement.

In all cases, it is vital that the journal's integrity, independence and academic reputation is not compromised in any way.

When contacting us regarding a potential supplement, please include as much of the information below as possible.

  • Journal in which you would like the supplement published
  • Title of supplement and/or meeting on which it is based
  • Date of meeting on which it is based
  • Proposed table of contents with provisional article titles and proposed authors
  • An indication of whether authors have agreed to participate
  • Sponsor information including any relevant deadlines
  • An indication of the expected length of each paper Guest Editor proposals if appropriate

For further information on criteria that must be fulfilled, download the supplements guidelines (PDF).

Plagiarism and Scientific Misconduct

Plagiarism is defined by the World Association of Medical Editors as the appropriation of the language, ideas or thoughts of another without crediting their true source and representation of them as one's own original work.

We deal with this problem and other cases of scientific misconduct at BMJ on a case by case basis while following guidance produced by bodies that include the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).

Further information about BMJ editorial policies, including scientific misconduct is available at: Editorial Policies

Plagiarism detection

BMJ is a member of CrossCheck by CrossRef and iThenticate. iThenticate is a plagiarism screening service that verifies the originality of content submitted before publication. iThenticate checks submissions against millions of published research papers, and billions of web content. Authors, researchers and freelancers can also use iThenticate to screen their work before submission by visiting

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