Not long ago, we posted a survey on our website that included a series of questions about ethical dilemmas mental health professionals face in daily practice. Exactly 1400 of you responded to that survey. . . and more than half of the respondents were psychiatrists. The idea for the survey came from our editorial board member, Cynthia Geppert, MD, PhD, MPH, who subsequently wrote an overview of the survey results. Dr Geppert's commentary, which was based on a summary of the copious data derived from the survey, was published in the May issue of Psychiatric Times, and —- on June 7th—- it was posted to our website.
When the essay was posted, it contained a live link to the original ethics survey. Our intent in including that link was to give interested readers a chance to review the original survey questions and to click on the hundreds of detailed responses to those questions. The day after the essay was posted, it was brought to our attention by a reader that – with enough drilling down – the names and email addresses of some of the respondents could be found. Dr Geppert was not aware of this, nor were we because we worked from the same data summary instead of the live survey. We immediately deleted the link and disabled the survey itself so that it would no longer be accessible to anyone. Still, the survey was live for about 16 hours.
The irony that this breach occurred in the context of one of the largest surveys ever on ethical issues facing psychiatrists – and in the middle of an essay about whether ethical dilemmas have changed in recent years and how prepared we are to manage changing dilemmas –- is not lost on us.
We know full well how much you value your privacy and we sincerely apologize to our survey respondents. We’ve taken steps to ensure that this won’t happen again.
We and Dr Geppert plan another ethics survey next year. We hope you’ll join in.
Please let us hear from you? Slings? Arrows? We’d welcome your thoughts and comments.
Group Editorial Director
An Apology to our Readers