Justice Sophie Bourque: She almost had it right!

The killing of Lin Jun – allegedly committed by Luka Magnotta – made international headlines. Today, the headlines aren’t about the act, rather they’re about a decision made by the courts to block access to data from a research study that Magnotta had participated in the past. The police tried to access the recorded interview conducted between a researcher and Magnotta, however, Justice Sophie Bourque barred access to the transcripts for use as evidence in his trial.

To date, there has been no precedence set in the courts that protects participants’ research data in the case of a murder trial.

There are tremendous ethical considerations in this case, and I will highlight some below:

As a participant, you are assured that your data will not be disclosed/used for purposes other than the study – aka researcher -participant privilege. Was it ethical – albeit a moot point – for the student to contact the police?

What’s more interesting is how Justice Bourque dealt with the collected data from the research study.

  • But after looking at the transcript of the audiotape, Justice Bourque said any usefulness would be minimal, and the harm it would cause to academic research far outweighed the benefit

The above statement is a double-edged sword. Although, the Judge’s decision to block access by the police to the data is a monumental decision that protects research participants, it is unethical of her to review the transcripts of the audiotape. There is a clear indication that her decision was influenced by the content of the transcripts… Suppose she deemed it “useful”, the police gain access to the transcripts and use it as evidence in the courts.

The Judge’s ability to review the content can have implications for future research.

Let’s consider a study that is researching behaviours of individuals who are at high risk of contracting HIV. Hypothetically, if a participant is in a similar situation such as Magnotta, based on today’s precedence, a judge may rule that a participant’s research data made available for the trial. How could this affect the decisions of potential research participants who are at high risk of contracting HIV?

One can argue that this will become a concern to potential participants and act as a barrier to quality research. Should a participant partake in a study, their answers may be skewed based on the possibility that their data – if linked back to them – can be used beyond the scope of the study. Another argument can be made that participants who make for ideal study candidates avoid participation due to fear of prosecution, therefore stifling research.

Justice Bourque’s decision to review a participant’s data collected in a research study is unethical and violates researcher-participant privileges. The potential harm to conducting sound, quality academic research outweighs the benefits of using research participants’ data as evidence in a trial.

“Why do Canadians love their Healthcare so much?”

Anonymous is bewildered as to why  Canadians love their healthcare system.
For starters, love is a strong word… Having said that, I for one appreciate that we have a fantastic healthcare system.

Is it the best? No. Can it improve? Absolutely.

Amongst the plethora of answers, I share with you my answer to Anonymous’s inquiry.

Dear Anonymous,

While we have a good healthcare system in Canada, unfortunately it is not the best model out there – and I will point out some of its downfalls. Having said that, here are some major reasons why we – at the very least I – love our healthcare system.

Pros:

  1. Philosophy: In Canada, we operate under the philosophy that healthcare – and consequently good health – is a basic Human Right and not a privilege. As such, there should be no barriers to acquiring healthcare services segregating between the rich and the disadvantaged, therefore making it a privilege. So right off the bat, it’s a difference in philosophical thinking.
  2. Burden of Cost: While it is true that most care services are provided at no cost to patients, it does not mean that healthcare in Canada is free! The burden of cost has simply shifted from the patient at the point of service to other forms such as: taxation, government subsidies, etc.
  3. Health: The concept of health is viewed differently. Health isn’t just about your physiology and how you feel, health encompasses a plethora of determinants. Everything from genetics to socio-economic factors affect health. With that in mind, our approach to healthcare is more comprehensive – at least it should be in theory.
  4. Healthy Population: A healthy population is a productive population. A productive population leads to a productive nation. A productive nation yields a rich nation. A rich nation yields a happy population. I’d wager a healthy population is a happy population.

Cons:

  1. Perceptions: The perception that healthcare is “free” is common amongst Canadians. This is largely due to the fact that we don’t part with any money when we acquire healthcare services, and so the typical perception is that it’s “free”. This perception can generate waste in a system.
  2. Model: Currently, Canada runs on an acute-care model. This means that we treat problems and illness instead of preventing them, so emergency care. Although we are well aware of point #3 pointed out in pros – there is also evidence in scientific literature – we are oh so SLOW in turning around our system to become a preventative one. The most healthcare dollars are consumed by “end-of-life” patients and chronic illnesses. Some of these VERY expensive treatments – in theory and in practice – can be prevented with early interventions, depending on the illness situation. Examples can be more funding into social services, mental health detection, etc.
  3. Centricity: This is somewhat related to con #2. Not only is our healthcare model an acute-care model, it is also a provider-centric model. This comes from years and years of practice in this way. Traditionally, MDs are put on a pedestal because they can cure illnesses, yet in the areas of chronic diseases, the patient becomes the manager of their own health. This is prevalent for patients with rare genetic conditions. Essentially, we need to move towards a more patient-centric model, where the patient is viewed and treated as the “consumer/client” just like in any other industry.

There are a lot more arguments for both sides dear Anonymous. For me, the above mentioned pros are why I love our system. And the above mentioned cons are areas that a new generation of patients will challenge, and with time will change – another reason to love the system. 

Hope that answered your question.

Cheers,

YT”

I suppose to an outsider, it does seem odd that we are appreciative of our healthcare system. What I find odd is that healthcare is not universal irrespective of citizenship, geography, status, race and any other social construct – aka baggage – that we’ve amassed over the year. We are all human after all, right?