Did "As The World Turns" violate the Ingelfinger rule?

What was the New England Journal of Medicine doing on a soap opera anyway?

Soap watchers may note that Dr. Jeff Ward, the handsome, brilliant, young-doc protagonist of the CBS soaper, was subject of a surprise last week engineered in part by his ex-student cum resident cum lover, Annie Stewart. It was a special luncheon (in the hospital cafeteria) to celebrate an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about a new surgical technique he devised.

Advance copies of the "journal" were placed at each staff doctor's place.

In the soap, the medical journal had a color picture on the front.

The real journal never has pictures. Traditionally it prints its table of contents on the cover and such enticing articles as (from the current issue) "Chemical Disinfection of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Virus."

"Well," conceded Ed Devlin, the CBS head of daytime programming, "it [the on-soap journal] did look something like a cross between a medical journal and People magazine . . . "

"Well," said Marlene Thayer, editorial office manager of the (real) New England Journal of Medicine, "I don't know if this is a new high or a new low."

"Actually," said Dr. Arnold S. Relman, editor of the (real) New England Journal of Medicine, "I can't say that I look at soap operas."

"Actually," said Devlin, "I'm not sure the writers [of "As the World Turns"] knew that there really was a medical publication called The New England Journal of Medicine."

The real journal, affectionately known in the profession as NEJM, is the oldest medical journal in the world, says Relman. It was founded in 1812 when it was called The New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery and Collatoral Branches of Science. One of the most prestigious medical journals, NEJM could be said to be a bit, well, stuffy--an unlikely candidate for a soapy plug, even on one with 10 million viewers every day.

According to the script of "World," Dr. Ward did not know that the journal was writing about his surgical technique. It was all a big surprise.

That's how the Ingelfinger rule comes in. Franz Ingelfinger, the late, longtime editor of the (real) NEJM, instituted a policy whereby any news leak of the substance of a manuscript would automatically eliminate its publication in the journal. But since, in the soap, advance copies of the "journal" were already prepared, it might have been too late to apply the Ingelfinger rule.

On the other hand, the NEJM only publishes manuscripts submitted to it by doctors and medical researchers (and writes editorials and comment about them, sometimes.) It doesn't go out and write about the Jeff Wards, and no way does a physician wake up and find himself--surprise--on its pages.

Editor Relman's reaction: "Why, how quaint."