Research Theme Groups
Research by the Centre’s members addresses a broad array of health-related issues. The Centre itself also facilitates collaborations and organizes events around four "themes". If you would like to receive notifications about events please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or to learn more about a specific theme you can contact one of the theme leads listed below.
Technology and Innovation
Emerging technologies give great promise to patients, but pose legal and ethical challenges for policy-makers and health professionals. While electronic health records and large databases of health information can improve patient care, enhance surveillance of infectious diseases, and reveal the genetic causes of disease, the widespread collection of health information has necessitated the implementation of complex regulatory schemes to protect the privacy of this sensitive information. Questions still exist respecting the use of genetic information by the courts, employers, or insurers. Similarly, while robotic surgery and telemedicine have the potential to improve patient care and access to health services, regulations governing health professionals will have to adapt to the use of these technologies. There are similar challenges in applying existing laws to the use of cognitive enhancing drugs and deep brain stimulation on patients with diminished capacity, for example those with dementia or mental illnesses. Another area of rapid technological innovation has been reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. While these technologies are becoming increasingly prevalent, Canada lacks the necessary legal framework to regulate their use.
The objective of the new Bioethics Network is to build a local community for discussion, collaboration and the promotion of bioethics. Our approach is multi-disciplinary, and we hope to include a broad range of people and perspectives on bioethical questions. Activities will depend upon the interests of the network, but our ingoing ideas are varied and range from academic and professionally oriented activities that support the needs and aspirations of members (e.g. workshopping papers, supporting graduate students, grant and research collaborations, discussion of cases) to activities that are more experimental or unusual for academics and practitioners (e.g. “hashtag” meetings involving open-ended exploration of topics from multiple perspectives around themes such as #viral, micro-story creative writing on topics designed to elicit imaginative thinking on bioethics topics). Stay tuned for more on this exciting initative as the Network gets underway in 2018.
Canada’s aging population, coupled with medicine’s ever-increasing ability to prolong life, place pressure on already strained health care budgets. While the Canadian health care system has been structured primarily around hospital and physician services, the aging population now demands that policy-makers turn their attention to improving access to and adequately funding health care services such as long-term care, palliative care, pharmaceuticals, and home care. The seamless integration of these services with hospital and physician services also presents a significant challenge for policy-makers. Numerous scandals relating to disease outbreaks and patient safety in nursing homes and long-term care facilities suggest that provinces must improve their oversight over the host of public and private entities providing these services. The aging population also presents challenging legal and ethical issues for health providers and the families of patients, for example, the impact of dementia on the ability to consent to medical treatment and the regulation of physician assisted suicide.
National and Global Health Governance
Concerns such as the ever-increasing share of tax dollars devoted to the health care system, numerous patient safety scandals, and long wait lists for certain health care services have led citizens to seek redress before the courts. For example, there have been claims alleging that the failure to fund particular health services (i.e. therapy for autism and sex reassignment surgery) constitutes discrimination and claims that legal limits on private health care services violate the constitutional rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. Just as patients use the law as a tool to motivate health policy change, governments employ the law to improve health and to reform the health care system, for example, by restricting tobacco use, mandating labelling requirements for food, and by regulating the safety of pharmaceuticals. At the global level, international laws and institutions (i.e. the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization) have a complex relationship with national governments and domestic laws that impacts the response to global health threats such as Ebola and AIDS/HIV.