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Editor,—The medical aspects of child abuse and neglect are undeniably an area of some controversy within the profession. Clearly doctors you invite to review books on the subject are entitled to express their opinions within the context of their reviews. However, even allowing for this we were disconcerted by the tone and content of Dr Sunderland’s review.1 To us it read as an oblique attack on the overall work of Jane Wynne and Chris Hobbs from someone in an opposing camp. Where Dr Sunderland sticks to factual criticism he is on safe ground (paragraphs 4, 5, and 8). However, the other paragraphs consist of personal criticism to an extent that we believe is unacceptable.
Dr Sunderland clearly implies that Drs Hobbs and Wynne are overzealous pioneers who are personally responsible for an era of overdiagnosis of abuse. We would beg to differ and believe that they should be congratulated for their dedicated work in protecting children and publishing their findings. If Dr Sunderland wishes to make such allegations he should choose some other forum than a book review, thus allowing the authors a right of reply.
We believe that the vast majority of paediatricians would not wish to see book reviews of such a contentious nature in the journal.
We ask reviewers to provide new and interesting information about the subject matter covered by the book in question. We enjoin them to be entertaining, readable, and informative; we remind them of the words of Harold Evans, once editor of The Sunday Times. He asks of a book whether it is of particular topical interest? Does it fill a gap in the market? Is the subject changing rapidly? Is the book relevant to the reviewer’s personal experience, and have the authors succeeded in their task?
We believe readers appreciate this approach rather than being presented with what could amount to a dull precis of a book’s contents page. We do not consider Sunderland’s review is a personal attack on the authors; we would not have published it had we thought it so. Moreover, we disagree that the majority of our readers do not wish to see contentious reviews and we will continue to publish them. Authors have an opportunity to reply through the correspondence column if they wish.
Editors of other scientific journals appear to share our view, as can be seen by publication of what is probably a far more contentious review of the book in question than that of Sunderland1-2and by correspondence elsewhere about a critical review of another book.1-3-1-5
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