Richard Horton (editor)

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Richard Horton
Dr. Richard Horton, Editor in Chief, the Lancet (cropped).jpg
Richard Horton in 2013
Native name
Richard Charles Horton
Born (1961-12-29) 29 December 1961 (age 57)[1]
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham (BSc, MB ChB)
Spouse(s)Ingrid Johanna Wolfe[1]
Children1 daughter[1]
Scientific career

Richard Charles Horton, FRCP, FMedSci, (born 29 December 1961) is the present editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a United Kingdom-based medical journal.



Horton studied at Bristol Grammar School[1] from 1969 to 1980 and at the University of Birmingham from 1980 to 1986, receiving his BSc (in physiology) in 1983, and qualifying in medicine in 1986. He completed his general medical training in Birmingham before moving to the liver unit at the Royal Free Hospital.


In 1990, Horton joined The Lancet as an assistant editor and moved to New York as North American editor in 1993. Two years later he returned to the UK to become Editor-in-Chief.

He has been a medical columnist for The Observer and writes for The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Review of Books. His book about controversies in modern medicine, Second Opinion: Doctors, Diseases and Decisions in Modern Medicine, was published in 2003. (In the United States, it was published under the title Health Wars: On the Global Front Lines of Modern Medicine.)

In 2005 he was a member of the working party and subsequently wrote the report for the Royal College of Physicians' inquiry into the future of medical professionalism – "Doctors in Society" (2005). He also chaired the Royal College of Physicians' Working Party on Physicians and the Pharmaceutical Industry; co-chaired a World Health Organization (WHO) Scientific Advisory Group on Clinical Trials Registration;[10] chaired the Board of the Health Metrics Network; sat on the External Reference Group for WHO's Research Strategy; and is an External Advisory Board Member for the WHO European Region.[11] Currently, he co-chairs the independent Expert Review Group on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children' Health. He is also a Council member of both the Academy of Medical Sciences and the University of Birmingham.

Horton was the first President of the World Association of Medical Editors, and is a Past-President of the US Council of Science Editors (2005–06). He is an honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University College London, and the University of Oslo. He is a Fellow of both of the Royal College of Physicians and of the UK's Academy of Medical Sciences.[11] In 2011, he was elected to the US Institute of Medicine.[12][13]

In 2008, Horton was appointed to a research and analytical management panel as a Senior Associate of The Nuffield Trust, a major independent health policy institution.[14] In 2016, he was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to an expert group advising the High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, which was co-chaired by presidents François Hollande of France and Jacob Zuma of South Africa.[15] In 2017, he served on the World Health Organization/Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights High-Level Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents, chaired by Tarja Halonen and Hina Jilani.[16]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2007, Horton received the Edinburgh Medal[17] for scientific and professional contributions to the understanding and well-being of humanity and in 2009 a recognition of contributions to public health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.[18]

Horton was elected one of the founding fellows of the[19] Academy of Medical Sciences[2] in 1998 and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP).

He is an honorary doctor at UiT - The Arctic University of Norway.[20]


Denial of retraction of discredited vaccine paper[edit]

On 28 February 1998 Horton published a controversial paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and 12 co-authors with the title “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children" suggesting that vaccines could cause autism. The publication of the paper set off a sharp decline in vaccinations in Europe and America and in subsequent years globally.[21] In the United Kingdom, the Health Protection Agency attributed a large measles outbreak in 2008 and 2009 to a concurrent drop in the number of children receiving the MMR vaccine. Pockets of measles — which can be fatal —have also cropped up in Canada and the United States as a result of parents’ refusal to vaccinate.[22]

Horton was heavily criticised for refusing to take action for so long. He was finally forced to retract the paper in February 2010 after the General Medical Council, which oversees doctors in Britain, said that "there was a biased selection of patients in The Lancet paper" and that his "conduct in this regard was dishonest and irresponsible".[23] Horton defended his position by saying "I do not regret publishing the original Wakefield paper. Progress in medicine depends on the free expression of new ideas. I worked at the Royal Free from 1988 to 1990 and met him on many occasions. He is a committed, engaging, and charismatic clinician and scientist. He asks big questions about diseases - what are their ultimate causes? - and his ambition often brings quick and impressive results."[24] However, there are groups criticising Horton for contributing to the ongoing dramatic drop of vaccination of children in Europe and America that causes several epidemics and deaths by delaying the retraction of the paper for 12 years.[25]

Royal Society[edit]

In the 11 May 2005 The Lancet, Dr. Horton criticized the ancient British scientific group, the Royal Society, under Lord Rees for its neglect of medicine.[12] Professor Mark Pepys and thirty other society members responded. A few years earlier the society and the journal had taken different positions in a scientific reporting debate known as the Pusztai affair involving research on genetically modified potatoes.

Professor Sir Roy Meadow[edit]

Horton published an article in 2005 supporting Professor Sir Roy Meadow who had been charged with serious professional misconduct by the GMC for giving erroneous and seriously misleading evidence in the Sally Clark trial. This was especially controversial as the article appeared whilst the GMC proceedings were still under away and was published on the first day of Meadow's defence. The article "incensed" Clark, a solicitor who had been the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice. With the support of erroneous statistical (and other) evidence from Meadow the prosecution wrongly convicted her of murder and she spent over three years in prison before her successful second appeal.[26][27]

Her husband wrote a rebuttal letter to The Lancet in order to correct Horton's 'many inaccuracies and one-sided opinions' and to prevent them prejudicing independent observers. Dr James Le Fanu, medical practitioner and writer, also wrote to The Lancet in the same issue and described Horton's words as 'mischief'.[28] The Clark family issued a statement addressing and countering with established fact each of the points making up Horton's biased support of Meadow.[29]


At the Time to Go Demo of 23 September 2006, Horton accused American president George W. Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair of "lies" and "killing children" in Iraq. On 11 October, The Lancet published new estimates of the death toll of Iraqi citizens after the US-led invasion in 2003, putting it at a total of 655,000. Some supporters of the invasion of Iraq dismissed it for what they claimed was flawed methodology.[30][31][32] Some opponents of the invasion questioned its reliability due to its extreme divergence from other data on the conflict.[33] Some journals and statistical experts were supportive. Other experts in the field were not convinced, saying the estimates were "high, and probably way too high",[34] and that the authors had published a "misinterpretation of their own figures".[35] Others were incredulous that the survey could have been performed as reported under such dangerous conditions.[36][37]

Iraq's health minister estimated during a press conference in November 2006 that between 100,000 and 150,000 people had died since the invasion in 2003, based on an estimate of around 100 deaths per day brought to morgues and hospitals during 2006,[38] while saying that the Lancet estimates were an "exaggerated number".[39]

U.S. President George W. Bush was asked at a 2005 press conference to estimate the number of "civilians, military, police, insurgents (and) translators" that had been killed in Iraq[40] and gave a number of 30,000 deaths, but the White House declined to provide a source for that estimate.

Open Letter for the People of Gaza[edit]

In August 2014 The Lancet published "An Open letter for the people of Gaza",[41] criticising Israel in the wake of the 2014 Gaza conflict.

Horton responded to criticism of the letter by saying that it was "a smear campaign" and that he didn't "honestly see what all this has to do with the Gaza letter. I have no plans to retract the letter, and I would not retract the letter even if it was found to be substantiated".[42] However, Horton subsequently came to Israel's Rambam Hospital for a visit and said that he "deeply, deeply regrets" publishing the letter.[42][43][44]

Professor Sir Mark Pepys wrote: "The failure of the Menduca et al authors to disclose their extraordinary conflicts of interest… are the most serious, unprofessional and unethical errors. The transparent effort to conceal this vicious and substantially mendacious partisan political diatribe as an innocent humanitarian appeal has no place in any serious publication, let alone a professional medical journal, and would disgrace even the lowest of the gutter press." In addition, Pepys accused Horton personally saying that "Horton’s behavior in this case is consistent with his longstanding and wholly inappropriate use of The Lancet as a vehicle for his own extreme political views. It has greatly detracted from the former high standing of the journal." In response, Horton said: "How can you separate politics and health? The two go hand-in-hand."[45]

Personal life[edit]

Horton married Ingrid Johanna Wolfe in 1998 and has one daughter.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f HORTON, Dr Richard Charles. Who's Who. 2014 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b "Professor Richard Horton - The Academy of Medical Sciences". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  3. ^ Richard Horton's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  4. ^ Begg, C. (1996). "Improving the quality of reporting of randomized controlled trials. The CONSORT statement". JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association. 276 (8): 637–639. doi:10.1001/jama.276.8.637.
  5. ^ Beaglehole, R.; Bonita, R.; Horton, R.; Adams, C.; Alleyne, G.; Asaria, P.; Baugh, V.; Bekedam, H.; Billo, N.; Casswell, S.; Cecchini, M.; Colagiuri, R.; Colagiuri, S.; Collins, T.; Ebrahim, S.; Engelgau, M.; Galea, G.; Gaziano, T.; Geneau, R.; Haines, A.; Hospedales, J.; Jha, P.; Keeling, A.; Leeder, S.; Lincoln, P.; McKee, M.; MacKay, J.; Magnusson, R.; Moodie, R.; et al. (2011). "Priority actions for the non-communicable disease crisis". The Lancet. 377 (9775): 1438–47. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60393-0. PMID 21474174.
  6. ^ Horton, R. (1996). "Surgical research or comic opera: Questions, but few answers". The Lancet. 347 (9007): 984–985. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(96)90137-3.
  7. ^ Richard Horton speech at Time to Go anti-war demonstration in Manchester on 2006-09-23 Video on YouTube
  8. ^ Davidoff, F. (2001). "Sponsorship, Authorship, and Accountability". JAMA. 286 (10): 1232–4. doi:10.1001/jama.286.10.1232. PMID 11559271.
  9. ^ Horton, R. (2014). "Offline: The moribund body of medical history". The Lancet. 384 (9940): 292. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61050-3.
  10. ^ De Angelis, C.; Drazen, J. M.; Frizelle, F. A.; Haug, C.; Hoey, J.; Horton, R.; Kotzin, S.; Laine, C.; Marusic, A.; Overbeke, A. J. P. M.; Schroeder, T. V.; Sox, H. C.; Weyden, M. B. V. D. (2004). "Clinical Trial Registration: A Statement from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors". New England Journal of Medicine. 351 (12): 1250–1. doi:10.1056/NEJMe048225. PMID 15356289.
  11. ^ a b "About the Lancet". The Lancet. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  12. ^ a b Watts, G (2005). "A right royal spat". BMJ : British Medical Journal. 331 (7507): 53. doi:10.1136/bmj.331.7507.53. PMC 558552.
  13. ^ "IOM Elects 65 New Members, Five Foreign Associates" (Press release). Institute of Medicine. 17 October 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2016.Institute of Medicine website
  14. ^ "Media centre". 31 January 2017. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  15. ^ High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth – Expert Group World Health Organization.
  16. ^ Leading the realization of human rights to health and through health: Report of the High-Level Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents (2017) World Health Organization.
  17. ^ "Edinburgh Medal". (Press release) 2015. Retrieved 6 January 2016. Edinburgh International Science Festival website
  18. ^ "Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Awards Dean’s Medal to Richard Horton" (Press release) Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2016. Johns Hopkins website
  19. ^ "People". 20 December 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  20. ^ "Global health icon appointed Honorary Doctor at UiT The Arctic University of Norway". 17 October 2018. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  21. ^ Harris, Gardiner (2 February 2010). "British Journal Retracts Paper Linking Autism and Vaccines". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  22. ^ Eggertson, Laura (9 March 2010). "Lancet retracts 12-year-old article linking autism to MMR vaccines". CMAJ. 182 (4): E199–E200. doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-3179. PMC 2831678. PMID 20142376. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  23. ^ "Medical journal retracts study linking autism to vaccine". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  24. ^ "Andrew Wakefield – the fraud investigation – Brian Deer". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  25. ^ "Measles outbreak across Europe". 28 March 2017. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  26. ^ Horton, Richard (2005). "In defence of Roy Meadow". The Lancet. 366 (9479): 3. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)66798-0.
  27. ^ "Cot death expert defends evidence". 1 July 2005. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  28. ^ Clark, Stephen (2005). "Roy Meadow". The Lancet. 366 (9484): 449. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67048-1.
  29. ^ "Sally Clark: Statement to the Lancet 1.7.05". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  30. ^ Reynolds, Paul (12 October 2006). "Huge gaps in Iraq death estimates". BBC News.
  31. ^ "Critics attack huge Iraqi casualty figures". Radio Netherlands. 12 October 2006. Archived from the original on 7 December 2006.
  32. ^ Russell, Ben (13 October 2006). "'Lancet' back at centre of controversy". London: The Independent. Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  33. ^ "Iraq Body Count Press Release 14 (16 Oct 2006) :: Iraq Body Count". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  34. ^ "Is Iraq's Civilian Death Toll 'Horrible' -- Or Worse?". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 11 October 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  35. ^ Daponte, Beth Osborne (28 January 2007). "The civilian death toll in Iraq war proves a nebulous statistic". Taipei Times. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  36. ^ Giles, J. (2006). "Iraqi death toll withstands scrutiny". Nature. 443 (7113): 728–9. doi:10.1038/443728a. PMID 17051169.
  37. ^ Bohannon, John (2006). "Epidemiology: Iraqi Death Estimates Called Too High; Methods Faulted". Science. 314 (5798): 396–7. doi:10.1126/science.314.5798.396. PMID 17053114.
  38. ^ "Iraq issues controversial death toll". Financial Times. 10 November 2006.
  39. ^ "Iraqi health minister estimates as many as 150,000 Iraqis killed by insurgents". International Herald Tribune. The Associated Press. 9 November 2006. Archived from the original on 18 September 2008. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  40. ^ Dorell, Oren (12 December 2005). "Bush: 30,000 Iraqis dead". USA Today. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  41. ^ Manduca, P.; Chalmers, I.; Summerfield, D.; Gilbert, M.; Ang, S. (2014). "An open letter for the people in Gaza". The Lancet. 384 (9941): 397–398. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61044-8.
  42. ^ a b Lazareva, Inna (3 October 2014). "Lancet editor apologises for Gaza article by scientists who promoted Ku Klux Klan". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  43. ^ "In Israel, Lancet editor regrets publishing open letter on Gaza". Haaretz. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  44. ^ Siegel-Itzkovich, Judy (2 October 2014). "The Lancet editor relents on medical journal's unbalanced attacks on Israel". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  45. ^ Wallis Simons, Jake (22 September 2014). "Lancet 'hijacked in anti-Israel campaign'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 October 2014.