Canadian Bioethics Blog

CAPHE-ACESS Questionnaire for Practising Healthcare Ethicists

Andria Bianchi
Posted August 31, 2015

The Canadian Association of Practicing Healthcare Ethicists-Association canadienne des éthiciens en soins de santé (CAPHE-ACESS), an institutional collaborator with CBS, has developed a questionnaire to circulate to all practising healthcare ethicists in Canada. Please find attached a letter of information about the study and a link to the survey in both English and French.

Strategy to Consult Membership on Core Issues

Posted November 28, 2014

Dear CBS members,

At our 2014 Annual Conference, held in beautiful British Columbia, it became very clear that CIHR’s recent decision concerning ethics leadership is a source of deep concern for the membership; indeed, it is fair to say that this issue has unified the membership like no issue before it. The membership clearly called for a response from the CBS to CIHR. Furthermore, a motion was brought forward at the annual general meeting for the CBS board to develop a process for representing the membership on core issues like those raised by the situation at CIHR. In the following, we briefly summarize the latter situation and describe our actions thus far. Next we propose criteria for identifying and responding to ‘core issues’ requiring Board representation of the CBS membership.

Please click here to view a French version of this letter.

Ethics leadership at CIHR

As many of you already know, in early 2014 CIHR introduced an ‘Ethics Action Plan’ that effectively eliminates internal ethics expertise at CIHR (for a detailed summary of these events please see ‘Governance of Research’ on the Impact Ethics blog (link provided below). At the annual meeting of the CBS it became clear that the membership strongly opposes CIHR’s decision. The membership called for a response from the CBS. 

Following the conference, letters were exchanged between Dr. Aubin and CBS President Ghislaine Cleret de Langavant (on behalf of the CBS) concerning ethics governance at CIHR.  A link to these letters is provided below. This link has also been posted on the CBS website with permission from both parties.

With the support of the membership, we will continue to act on this issue. In the meantime we are working to develop a process that will enable the Board to represent the membership on core issues – like those raised by the situation at CIHR – in the future.

Board representation on ‘core issues’

In response to a motion brought forward at the 2014 annual general meeting for the CBS board to consult and represent the membership on core issues, the CBS Board has developed draft criteria that – subject to membership approval – would be used for identifying ‘core issues’ requiring Board representation of the CBS membership. 

The criteria are as follows:

  1. Process issues of national importance to the field of bioethics / bioethics community
  2. Process issues concerning bioethics in Canada for which there is national consensus

Examples of issues satisfying one or more of these criteria include:

  1. Unclear governance practices or policies which undermine the field of bioethics or its ability to assist informed decision making be it at the bedside, in research or at the policy level
  2. Issues which undermine transparent, accountable and inclusive ethical processes of national import

These criteria are not mutually exclusive as community consensus could be obtained concerning an issue of national importance to the field; the developments at CIHR with respect to ethics governance in research appear to provide an illustrative example.

We hasten to emphasize that the Board is not hereby proposing to represent the membership on specific substantive ethics issues (e.g., abortion, euthanasia), or to take a position on every issue consistent with the above criteria. Issues will be taken up at the Board’s discretion.

At this time, we are seeking input on this proposal from the membership at large. Please submit your feedback via email to or by posting a comment here on the Canadian Bioethics Blog. Please note that all comments on the blog will be publicly posted and are not necessarily representative of the CBS. The deadline for submitting feedback is December 22, 2014.

We look forward to your input on this crucial issue.


Canadian Bioethics Society Board of Directors


Link to Impact Ethics blog on Governance of Research


Link to correspondence between Dr. Aubin and Ghislaine Cleret de Langavant


CIHR's Ethics Leadership Discussion at CBS 2014

Posted July 16, 2014

By Michael McDonald and Daryl Pullman

At the 2014 meeting of the Canadian Bioethics Society in Vancouver, a special session was held to have a dialogue around the report of the Task Force on Ethics Reform at the CIHR and the response of CIHR management to that report. The session was very well attended - standing room only.


Research abuse of Aboriginal children: Not just a consent issue

Dr. Fern Brunger
Posted October 19, 2013

Media coverage about the unethical nutrition experiments conducted on Aboriginal children in the 1940s and 50s has focused on the lack of informed consent. The nutrition experiments had been conducted from 1942 to 1952, first in northern Manitoba and then across Canada in selected First Nations communities and residential schools. Ian Mosby [1], historian and SSHRC post-doctoral fellow at the University of Guelph, published on the experiments in the journal Social History (May 2013). For those of you who didn’t follow the media coverage, the experiments were conducted by some of Canada's leading nutrition experts in cooperation with various federal departments. The most ambitious study was the 1947-1948 'James Bay Survey of the Attawapiskat and Rupert's House Cree First Nations.' Two separate long-term controlled experiments were also conducted on 1300 malnourished individuals – mainly children – without the subjects' informed consent or knowledge. Milk rations were cut in half for years, dental services were withheld (gum health was an outcome measure and dental care would skew results) and essential vitamins were kept from those who needed them.

An Adventure in Open Access Bioethics Publishing: BioéthiqueOnline One Year On…

Dr. Bryn Williams-Jones
Posted April 22, 2013

A little more than a year ago, in March 2012, with a group of intrepid graduate students at the Université de Montréal, I helped launch a new bilingual bioethics journal, BioéthiqueOnline. The journal aims to fill an important gap in the Québec and Canadian academic and professional bioethics communities by providing a space for publishing innovative content, including that with a regional or national focus, and in either of the two official languages (Williams-Jones 2012).

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)

Blair Henry
Posted July 20, 2012

Welcome to The Grey Zone, our ethics blog series on Your Say. In this post, Blair Henry talks about Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Seeking the wisdom of the Supreme Court on obligations to continue life support

Dr. Susan Sherwin
Posted June 19, 2012

On May 17, 2012 The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed its intention to address the question of whether physicians have the authority to discontinue life support for patients in persistent vegetative state (pvs) – and possibly also for patients in conditions close to pvs – despite family opposition.

Is Medical Repatriation Ethically Justifiable?

Sally Bean
Posted June 08, 2012

In Canada, medical repatriation occurs when a health care delivery institution sends an uninsured patient back to their country of origin to receive chronic care that they would be unable to access in Canada.

Access blocked! What do you do now?

Blair Henry
Posted April 28, 2012

Trying to care for sick people in the context of high patient volumes is a problem for all major hospitals - it’s a problem at local, national and international levels; and one that causes many people to lose sleep.

Innovating in bioethics publishing: a new bilingual Canadian Bioethics Journal

Dr. Bryn Williams-Jones
Posted April 17, 2012

With the annual CBS conference coming up in Montreal at the end of May, on the timely theme of Fostering Innovation in Canadian Bioethics, I thought it would be worth sharing my own recent experience in the matter.

Resource allocation during a drug shortage

Sally Bean
Posted April 04, 2012

Drug shortages occur due to various factors such as manufacturer’s decision to reduce production, unavailability of material ingredients required to manufacture a particular drug or class of drugs, or unexpected increase in demand.

Research in emergency medicine

Blair Henry
Posted March 16, 2012

Emergency medicine encompasses a large part of acute care, and has been defined as “the specialty concerned with the stabilization, management, diagnosis, and disposition of individuals with acute illness and injury.

The Importance of Being a Mensch

Dr. Susan Sherwin
Posted March 13, 2012

“Mensch” is a Yiddish word, derived from old German. According to the website, The Art of the Mensch, a mensch literally means "a person" in Yiddish, but figuratively it means something much deeper.

E-mailing to discuss health-related questions?

Sally Bean
Posted March 01, 2012

Previously, Grey Zone readers unanimously voted that they would like to be able to communicate with their physician whenever they have a health-related question. However, research has indicated that physicians are less amenable to the idea of e-mailing with patients as an alternative to face-to-face communication. Who’s right?


Dr. Jim Dwyer
Posted February 21, 2012

Is the Canadian health care system sustainable?  That is an important question, but it can mean different things and be used in different ways.  Here are some reflections from afar – from an American who is teaching in Taiwan this year.

Should hospital visiting hours be restricted or unrestricted?

Blair Henry
Posted June 30, 2011

Ethics, at its core, is about trying to help people determine what we “should or ought” to do in certain situations, by helping them to think about the core values at stake, and applying principles to complex situations.