By Peter Thornton
Breakthroughs in health sciences can offer tremendous hope to patients awaiting a cure or better treatments. But such progress also generates new sets of legal, policy and ethical challenges. Innovation in science requires corresponding innovation in regulation and governance, as well as researchers and decision-makers who can work across disciplines and contextually apply this knowledge.
As home to the largest concentration of health law experts in Canada, the University of Ottawa has established the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics (CHLPE), which aims to transfer knowledge into the hands of those who can improve the lives of people, particularly the most disadvantaged.
“This Centre will be a hub for new ideas and evidence as well as the training of outstanding graduate students,” said the Centre’s inaugural director, Colleen Flood, professor and University Research Chair in Health Law and Policy. “Our research will bring greater and deeper cross-disciplinary collaborations in order to generate the research we need for a twenty-first century health and health care system.”
Focussing on four main themes, namely: technology and innovation, unique populations, aging, and domestic and global governance, the CHLPE will act as a focal point for research alliances that leverage the University’s many strengths, such as brain and mind research, public health and applied research, public law and public policy, social justice, human rights, and law and technology.
Some of the collaborations the Centre will pursue include supporting health care providers and governments in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize assisted suicide or addressing the complex challenges of regulating breakthroughs in genetics, neuroscience, and robotics. The Centre will also foster collaboration on matters of social justice, such as legal and ethical issues surrounding the compulsory medical treatment of Aboriginal children; women’s rights, such as access to abortion; and access to health services by persons with disabilities.
The Centre will also capitalize on the University of Ottawa’s proximity to decision-makers in government and in professional organizations: we intend to help researchers and experts in such organizations so that research can better inform practice and policy.