Science and Engineering Ethics 19 (2):381-388 (2013)

Abstract
In 1951, entomologist Jay Traver published in the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington her personal experiences with a mite infestation of her scalp that resisted all treatment and was undetectable to anyone other than herself. Traver is recognized as having suffered from Delusory Parasitosis: her paper shows her to be a textbook case of the condition. The Traver paper is unique in the scientific literature in that its conclusions may be based on data that was unconsciously fabricated by the author’s mind. The paper may merit retraction on the grounds of error or even scientific misconduct “by reason of insanity,” but such a retraction raises the issue of discrimination against the mentally ill. This article asks what responsibilities journals have when faced with delusions disguised as science, what right editors have to question the sanity of an author, and what should be done about the Traver paper itself. By placing higher emphasis on article content than author identity, scientific integrity is maintained and a balance is struck between avoiding discrimination against the mentally ill and not preventing patients from seeking needed treatment
Keywords Scientific misconduct  Mental illness  Retraction  Delusory parasitosis
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-011-9339-2
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