Journal of Medical Ethics is a leading international journal that reflects the whole field of medical ethics. The journal seeks to promote ethical reflection and conduct in scientific research and medical practice. It features articles on various ethical aspects of health care relevant to health care professionals, members of clinical ethics committees, medical ethics professionals, researchers and bioscientists, policy makers and patients.

Editorial policy

Journal of Medical Ethics adheres to the highest standards concerning its editorial policies on publication ethics, scientific misconduct, consent and peer review criteria. To view all BMJ Journal policies please refer to the BMJ Author Hub policies page. More information on copyright and authors’ rights.

Plan S compliance

Journal of Medical Ethics is a Plan S compliant Transformative Journal. Transformative Journals are one of the compliance routes offered by cOAlition S funders, such as Wellcome, WHO and UKRI. Find out more about Transformative Journals and Plan S compliance on our Author Hub.

Copyright and authors’ rights

Articles are published under an exclusive licence or non-exclusive licence for UK Crown employees or where BMJ has agreed CC BY applies. For US Federal Government officers or employees acting as part of their official duties, the terms are as stated in accordance with our licence terms. Authors or their employers retain copyright. Open access articles can be reused under the terms of the relevant Creative Commons licence to facilitate reuse of the content; please refer to the Journal of Medical Ethics Author Licence for the applicable Creative Commons licences.
When publishing in Journal of Medical Ethics, authors choose between three licence types – exclusive licence granted to BMJ, CC-BY-NC and CC-BY (Creative Commons open access licences require payment of an article processing charge). As an author you may wish to post your article in an institutional or subject repository, or on a scientific social sharing network. You may also link your published article to your preprint (if applicable). What you can do with your article, without seeking permission, depends on the licence you have chosen and the version of your article. Please refer to the BMJ author self archiving and permissions policies page for more information.


Preprints foster openness, accessibility and collaboration by allowing authors to make their findings immediately available to the research community and receive feedback on an article before it is submitted to a journal for formal publication. BMJ fully supports and encourages the archiving of preprints in any recognised, not-for-profit server such as medRxiv. BMJ does not consider the posting of an article in a dedicated preprint repository to be prior publication.
Preprints are reports of work that have not been peer-reviewed; Preprints should therefore not be used to guide clinical practice, health-related behaviour or health policy. For more information, please refer to our Preprint policy page.

Article transfer service

BMJ is committed to ensuring that all good quality research is published. Our article transfer service helps authors find the best journal for their research while providing an easy and smooth publication process. If authors agree to transfer their manuscript, all versions, supplementary files and peer reviewer comments are automatically transferred; there is no need to resubmit or reformat. Authors who submit to the Journal of Medical Ethics and are rejected will be offered the option of transferring to another BMJ Journal, such as BMJ Open.
Please note that the article transfer service does not guarantee acceptance but you should receive a quicker initial decision on your manuscript. Contact the Transfer Editor at

Peer review

Journal of Medical Ethics operates double-anonymised 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 and will be made available to the reviewers

Conflicts of interest

Authors are asked to declare any competing interests on submission to the journal. Associate editors are also asked to declare any potential conflict of interest when handling a paper, such as authorship by an author in the same institution or other relationships where there may be an appearance of a conflict of interest. These papers are handled by Professor Kenneth Boyd, Conflict of Interest editor for the journal, who may seek advice from other members of the editorial committee as appropriate. In these cases, the Conflict of Interest Editor may seek advice from a sub-committee of Associate Editors who are not affiliated to the authors. Other parts of the editorial process, which do not involve decisions about publishing the paper are not affected.

Article processing charges

During submission, authors can choose to have their article published open access for 3,245 GBP (exclusive of VAT for UK and EU authors). Publishing open access has multiple benefits including wider reach, faster impact and increased citation and usage. There are no charges for submission, page or colour figures.

Waivers and discounts

If authors choose to publish their article open access, an APC waiver may be available. Before applying for an APC waiver please consider: (1) Does your institution have an open access agreement with BMJ? If it does, then this may cover all or part of the APC for your article. Check BMJ’s open access agreements page to find out whether your institution is a member and what discounts you may be entitled to. (2) Have you received funding from a funder with an open access mandate or policy that covers paying APCs? If so, BMJ expects that the APC will be paid in full.
If neither (1) nor (2) above apply then consider (3) Are all the authors of your article based in low-income countries*? If so, you are eligible to apply for a full or partial waiver from BMJ. Visit our author hub to learn more about our waivers policy and how to request one. Please note that regardless of the funding situation, authors can still choose to publish with us at no cost, and articles will be made available to our subscribers. *This list is reviewed annually and is based upon HINARI Core Offer Groups A and B, and the World Bank Country and Lending Groups.

Data Sharing

Journal of Medical Ethics adheres to BMJ's Tier 2 data policy. We strongly encourage that data generated by your research that supports your article be made available as soon as possible, wherever legally and ethically possible. We also require data from clinical trials to be made available upon reasonable request. To adhere to ICMJE guidelines, we require that a data sharing plan must be included with trial registration for clinical trials that begin enrolling participants on or after 1st January 2019. Changes to the plan must be noted in the Data Availability Statement and updated in the registry record. All research articles must contain a Data Availability Statement. For more information and FAQs, please see BMJ's full Data Sharing Policy page.

Rapid responses

A rapid response is a moderated but not peer reviewed online response to a published article in Journal of Medical Ethics; it will not receive a DOI and will not be indexed. Find out more about responses and how to submit a response.

Submission guidelines

Please review the below article type specifications including the required article lengths, illustrations, table limits and reference counts. The word count excludes the title page, abstract, tables, acknowledgements, contributions and references. Manuscripts should be as succinct as possible. For further support when making your submission please refer to the resources available on the BMJ Author Hub. Here you will find information on writing and formatting your research through to the peer review process and promoting your paper. You may also wish to use the language editing and translation services provided by BMJ Author Services. For guidance on how writing informative titles, please view this blog post from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
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. Editorial Commentary Words Original research Original research - extended essays Feature article Short report Clinical ethics roundtable Response Ethics abstract Student essay Current controversy Author meets critics Ethics briefing


Editorials are commissioned only articles. “Guest Editorials” are invited by the editors and they address important and current ethical issues. The positions they present are not necessarily those of the editorial team.


Commentaries are commissioned only articles.
Word count: up to 1,000 Tables/illustrations: up to 2 References: up to 5


“Words” columns explain an ethical concept or word that is useful and should be more widely understood. They will explain a clinically relevant ethical concept that would benefit from being explained and is preferably from a non-western ethical tradition. They are commissioned and not peer reviewed, authors should contact the journal’s Editor in Chief in the first instance.
Word count: up to 1,000 References: up to 5

Original research

Original research includes both philosophical papers and empirical studies. Please note that papers that do not present empirical research do not need to upload a research checklist and should state 'not applicable' where applicable upon submission.
Word count: up to 3,500 Abstract: up to 250 Tables/Illustrations: up to 5

Original research - extended essay

Original research - extended essays employ in-depth philosophical analysis in order to address an important policy- or practice-related normative question. Predominantly empirical papers will not be considered in this category. Note that because of space considerations, the acceptance rate for extended essays is very low. We would recommend to authors (to maximise their chance of successful submission) that they submit their work as a standard length article unless there is a clear and compelling justification for the higher word count.
Word count: up to 7,000 Abstract: up to 250 words Tables/Illustrations: up to 5 References: up to 50

Feature article

Feature articles are selected from the best Extended Essays accepted for publication in the journal. Feature Articles will be selected on the basis that they express authoritative, novel and perhaps even provocative arguments. They might also discuss 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.
Word count: up to 7,000 Abstract: up to 250 words, unstructured References: up to 30 We will generally run several 1,000 word commentaries around the Feature article. You will have the right to write a short response to commentators of less than 500 words.

Short report

Short reports include summarised Original research arguments or results of empirical studies that can be stated succinctly.
Word count: up to 1,500 Abstract: up to 250 Tables/Illustrations: up to 2 References: up to 25

Clinical ethics roundtable

While roundtables are commissioned only, those interested in proposing one when they address issues that are significant and relevant to health care professionals should write to the Editor in Chief.
Clinical ethics roundtables should include the following:
  • Description of the situation or issue of between 400-800 words.
  • At least three commentaries of up to 1,000 words from a range of perspectives. Ordinarily, at least one commentary will present a patient perspective.


Response articles are responses to articles previously published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. They may be peer-reviewed at the editors' discretion, peer-reviewed responses will be reviewed on a fast track for timely publication. This may include responses from authors who have been criticised in the Journal.
Word count: 1,500 words Abstract: up to 250 Illustrations: at editorial discretion References: up to 10

Ethics abstract

Ethics abstracts 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.
Word count: up to 500 Tables/illustrations: up to 1 References: up to 3

Student essay

Student Essays aim to encourage medical and other related students to consider ethical issues. 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; information about your current course of study should be included in your cover letter.
Word count: up to 3,500 Abstract: up to 250 Tables/Illustrations: up to 5 References: up to 25

Current controversy

This article should cover some current news item, legal case or recent advance of ethical significance, 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. Authors should consider submitting a forum post on the issue that they plan on writing about before submitting a current controversy. This will mean that they can draw attention to an issue in the forum post while it is ‘news’ and then publish a more in depth ethical analysis of it as a current controversy. For more information on how to write for the forum, please see the instructions here.
Word count: up to 3500 words Abstract: up to 250 words Tables/Illustrations: up to 5, any more at editorial discretion References: up to 25

Author meets critics

The author meets critics commissioned only series consists of a summary of a new book (monograph) in medical ethics by the author, plus responses from 2 to 3 critics, each of no more than 1,000 words and an author response.

Ethics briefing

Ethics briefings are supplied by the medical ethics team at the BMA only.


The BMJ Publishing Group journals are willing to consider publishing supplements to regular issues. Supplement proposals may be made at the request of:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • BMJ itself may have proposals for supplements where sponsorship may be necessary.
  • 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.
For further information on criteria that must be fulfilled, download the supplements guidelines. 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


The Journal of Medical Ethics is committed to the importance of respecting confidentiality and it follows BMJ's guidelines.