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 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.
Theme Leads:
Colleen Flood (Common Law)
Michael Wolfson (Medicine)

Multidisciplinary Bioethics

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.
Theme Leads:
Jennifer Chandler (Common Law)
Michael Orsini (Social Sciences)

Public Health Law and Policy

Promoting health and preventing disease at a population level are ongoing priorities for any health system. The making of public health law and policy is a complex matter involving varying combinations of scientific evidence, political and bureaucratic leadership, careful timing, and sustained effort over a number of years. In other cases, change in public health policy is the result of powerful shocks, like a serious outbreak of an infectious disease (e.g., SARS, Ebola). There is also a multi-faceted legal dimension to public health including using law to promote public health in the face of threats from private interests; using legal tools to protect civil liberties in the face of overreach from public health authorities; and the use of treaties and other international law instruments to advance public health goals (e.g., tobacco control). Understanding public health law and policy making is, therefore, an inherently interdisciplinary affair requiring expertise in public health to be sure but also law, economics, political science, international relations, and policy studies. The objective of the Public Health Law and Policy theme in the Centre is to build bridges between faculty and students working in different disciplines with a shared interest in understanding the design, implementation and evaluation of the vast array of government legislation, regulation, policies and programs that prevent disease and promote health. This is a new Network which will be launched in the Fall of 2018. One of the initial areas of activity will be harm reduction. The Centre is now home to the Ottawa Harm Reduction Hub which brings together faculty with a shared interest in harm reduction in the areas of cannabis, opioids and tobacco.
Theme Leads:
Patrick Fafard (Social Sciences)
Vanessa Gruben (Common Law)

Indigenous Health

Indigenous health in Canada and worldwide is in crisis. This is evidenced by the life expectancy of First Nations and Metis people being approximately four to seven years less than the Canadian average and 12 years less in Inuit-inhabited areas. Inuit infant mortality rates are four times the Canadian average. Suicide rates for First Nations youth are five to six times higher than for non-Indigenous youth, while the rate among Inuit youth is among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national rate. The prevalence of diabetes among First Nations is three times the national average, and the tuberculosis rates for Inuit are three times higher than for First Nations and 70 times the rate for non-Indigenous Canadians.
The purpose of the Indigenous health sector of the Centre is to generate new ideas and evidence and to advance the holistic health of First Nation, Metis and Inuit Peoples through conducting, facilitating, promoting and disseminating research to change Canadian law and policy toward a more equitable health status. This may be realized by a multidisciplinary approach targeting governance, criminal law, mental health law, environmental law, human rights, etc.
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