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What is the moral collapse in the Cochrane Collaboration about?

Peter C Gøtzsche

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2019.064


On September 13, 2018, one of the founders of the Cochrane Collaboration was expelled from the organisation, by a narrow vote of 6 to 5. Many see this as a moral collapse in what was once a magnificent grassroots organisation, guided by ethical principles and helping people make better decisions about healthcare interventions. I am that excommunicated person. I review here the essential issues leading to my expulsion, which occurred primarily because, in my capacity as a board member, I had challenged the CEO’s virtually total control over the board, his mismanagement of Cochrane, and the direction in which he was taking the organisation. My criticism of psychiatric drugs and the highly prestigious Cochrane review of HPV vaccines also played a role. Freedom of Information requests revealed that the CEO went well beyond his brief to demand my removal from the Nordic Cochrane Centre, resulting in my sacking. Cochrane has become too close to industry and has introduced scientific censorship, which is detrimental for a scientific organisation. The board has announced a “zero tolerance” policy for repeated, serious bad behaviour. It would be beneficial if its CEO and board members applied this principle to themselves. I also discuss a recent paper by Trisha Greenhalgh et al that purported to have analysed the current Cochrane crisis in a disinterested fashion, which it did not. Instead of discussing the undeniable facts and the horrific abuses of power, TG consistently used positive terms about Cochrane and negative ones about me and my supporters.

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