Past events

Battling the Many Barriers Facing People with Disabilities in Society: A New Legislative Alternative to Traditional Human Rights/Charter Litigation

3 February, 10:00-11:30, NCDH 202

David Lepofsky speaking

The Research Group on Health and Law (RGHL), in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP), welcomed David Lepofsky, for a seminar on February 3.

Why have so many people with disabilities across Canada been demanding comprehensive federal and provincial accessibility legislation? Because they don’t want to have to battle every accessibility barrier they face, one at a time. People with disabilities have won laws in Ontario and Manitoba, and there are now laws under development in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and at the federal level.

David Leposky spoke about the critical role lawyers can play in social justice advocacy.

The RGHL at the 3rd Seminar of the Research Network on Technological Innovation, Uncertainty and Responsibility

Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, France - 14-17 juin 2016

Prof. Lara Khoury presented on class actions law suits in environmental liability where health damages are at issue at the 3rd Seminar of the Research Network on Technological Innovation, Uncertainty and Responsibility. Consulter le  programme [.pdf].

Séminaire doctoral international en droit de la santé

En collaboration avec la Chaire de recherche du Canada sur la culture collaborative en droit et politiques de la santé (Université de Montréal), le Groupe de recherche en santé et droit de McGill a reçu les 19 et 20 mai 2016 des doctorants de l'Université de Neuchâtel, l'Université Paris Descartes et l'Université catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve. Les doctorants de McGill Ma'n H. Zawati et Geoffrey Conrad ont présenté leurs travaux à cette occasion. Le programme peut être consulté ici. le RGHL participera au prochain séminaire doctoral qui aura lieu à Florence, Italie, en mai 2017 et sera organisé par la Faculté de droit de l'Université Paris Descartes.

Ottawa-McGill Graduate Students Colloquium in Health Law

Le 6 mai 2016, Stefanie Carsley, candidate au DCL, ainsi que Matthew Ponsford et Patrick Garon-Sayegh, candidats au LLM, ont présenté leurs recherches à la Faculté de droit de l'Université d'Ottawa le 6 mai 2016 grâce à l'appui du GRSD.

The next graduate Ottawa-McGill Graduate Colloquium will be held at McGill in 2017.

Designing Life: The Brave New World of Genome Editing

16 March 2016, 17:30, NCDH 312

The CRISPR-Cas9 method of genome editing has given researchers unprecedented power and ease in altering the building blocks of life. The uses of this technology for combatting disease appear obvious, but the implications of establishing control over the genome are also potentially staggering. A panel of expert observers engaged in a conversation about the meaning of this technology for all of us. This well attended discussion panel was hosted by Paul Kennedy of CBC’s Ideas and was recorded for an upcoming show.

  • Mr. André Picard of the Globe and Mail is an acclaimed health reporter and columnist.
  • Prof. Alan Peterson (Faculty of Medicine, McGill) is a distinguished oncology researcher currently using CRISPR-Cas9 in his lab.
  • Prof. Richard Gold (Faculty of Law, McGill) is the lead author of the OECD Guidelines on Licensing Genetic Inventions.
  • Prof. Daniel Weinstock (Faculty of Law, McGill) is the Director of the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy.
  • Prof. Margaret Somerville (Faculty of Law, McGill) is a world-renowned thinker on medical ethics.

Human Rights and the Contraceptive Imperative - March 2016

9 March 2016, 13h-14h30, IHSP, Charles Meredith House

10 March 2016, 12h30-14h, NCDH 316, Faculty of Law

Professor Joanna Erdman, MacBain Chair in Health Law and Policy, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University

(Co-sponsored with the IHSP and the Canada Research Chair in Collaborative Culture in Health Law and Policy)


This paper examines the upsurge in global advocacy on and for human rights in family planning, and claims that like so many other fields in human rights, family planning has become depoliticized. Its language of choice and access occludes primary causes of violations, the precarious conditions of the labor market, the sexual division of care work, and the gender dimensions of economic restructuring which structure peoples’ lives and often leave pregnancy as the only source of social and economic security. The human rights agenda turns rather to more manageable projects in health service delivery, protecting the individual from harm versus offering a program of social justice. Human rights in family planning are defined by the guarantee of choice and access within socio-economic constraints, each individual empowered as a responsible agent and accountable for their own well-being. This is the same belief that sustains economic relations of social inequality, including the disparagement and disillusionment of the state and of public health systems as social institutions. Human rights in family planning have become estranged from political empowerment and collective action, delinking reproduction from economic resources, secure livelihoods and participation in public life.


Joanna Erdman is an assistant professor and the inaugural MacBain Chair in Health Law and Policy at the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University. Her research focuses on sexual and reproductive health law in a transnational context. She has published in leading journals on harm reduction in safe abortion, the regulation of emergency contraception, and human papillomavirus vaccines policy, and she is the co-editor of the recent collection, Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (UPenn Press, 2014).

Joanna chairs the Global Health Advisory Committee of the Public Health Program, Open Society Foundations and the Gender and Rights Panel of the Human Reproduction Programme, World Health Organization.

Joanna received her BA and JD degrees from the University of Toronto and her LLM from Harvard, and completed a fellowship at Yale Law School.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the Courts: a Failure of Access to Real Justice for People with Severe Disabilities

2 février 2016, 16h15-18h15, Salle du Tribunal-école Maxwell-Cohen (NCDH 100)

Le Groupe de recherche en santé et droit accueillait l'honourable Ian Binnie, qui nous a entretenu sur les préjugés juridiques rencontrés par les personnes souffrant de troubles causés par l'alcoolisation fœtale (ETCAF).


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) covers a range of disabilities caused by pre-natal exposure to alcohol. Its effects can include severe cognitive and behavioural deficits that surface not only in criminal proceedings but every judicial context from custody disputes to welfare and guardianship. FASD often manifests itself in the inability of victims to organize their lives, control their actions and learn from bad outcomes. Often associated in the media with some aboriginal populations, FASD is in fact estimated to affect 2% to 5% of all newborns in Europe and North America. Much more could be done to alleviate the legal prejudice created by this disability.

The speaker

The Honourable Ian Binnie served for nearly 14 years as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, where he authored over 170 opinions, including leading cases in expert evidence, and many aspects of constitutional, criminal and administrative law.

Prior to his judicial appointment, he served as the Deputy Minister of Justice for the Government of Canada and spent many years in private practice, regularly appearing before the Supreme Court on a range of constitutional, civil and criminal matters. Mr. Binnie was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2012. He has received the CCLA Civil Liberties Award (2013), the Toronto Lawyers Association's Award of Distinction (2012), and the University of Toronto's Distinguished Alumnus Award (2011).

He is currently a Commissioner at the International Commission of Jurists, chairperson at the Internal Justice Council of the United Nations, and counsel at the Toronto firm Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin. In 2013, Mr. Binnie chaired the Institute of Health Economics’ first-ever Consensus Development Conference on Legal Issues of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Challenging state health policies in Europe under the right to private and family life

20 January 2016, 12:30-14:00, NCDH 316

The McGill Research Group on Health and Law (RGHL) was delighted to have Dr. Ivana Isailovic present its second seminar of the 2015-2016 academic year on "Challenging state health policies in Europe under the right to private and family life".​

The presentation discussed how European state health measures have been challenged before the European Court of Human Rights under the right to private and family life, which is enshrined in article 8 of the European Human Rights Convention. It also analyzed how the Court’s decisions have evolved, drawing on recent cases related to women’s access to abortion and transgender individuals’ demands for legal gender change. It highlighted some of the consequences of this interpretation of the Convention, which may have unintended effects on these individuals’ human rights.

Ivana Isailovic est Boursière Boulton à l'Université McGill. Elle a travaillé à la Equality Law Clinic, laquelle est rattachée au Centre Perelman de philosophie du droit et à l’Institut d’Études Européennes (IEE) de l’Université libre de Bruxelles. Ses intérêts de recherche se portent sur les activistes en matière de droit à l'avortement et les communautés transgenres. Elle a un PhD en droit des Sciences Po et un Master’s en droit international de l'Université Paris 1 Sorbonne.

Managing Risks Related to Modern Biotechnologies and their Foods

30 November 2015, 13:00-14:30, NCDH 316

The Research Group on Health and Law, in collaboration with the McGill School of Environment, was delighted to welcome Professor Ludivine Petetin.

The development of modern biotechnologies (including genetic modification of plants and animals, and animal cloning) and their resulting foods has been controversial. They allegedly are underpinned by scientific uncertainty. To regulate such technologies and to ensure information and safety, the European Union has adopted a precautionary approach. More specifically, the EU regulatory frameworks rely on premarket authorization and mandatory labelling. An analysis of the policy and regulatory provisions addressing modern biotechnologies and their derived products in the EU shows that gaps in the law and asymmetric relationships between competing European and national policies pose great risks to the EU food system and the environment.

Dr. Ludivine Petetin is an Assistant Professor at the School of Law of the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. Her research focuses on the policy, law and regulation of food, agriculture and environmental protection. In particular, she is interested in food security, agri-technology, sustainable agriculture, and investigates public participation and governance issues. She is a co-founder of the recently established @FEED (Agriculture, Technology, Food, Environment, Energy and Democracy) Research Centre at the University of Hull. She has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Visiting Lecturer at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Italy). Dr. Petetin holds postgraduate degrees from Paris II Panthéon-Assas in France, the University of Glasgow and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. From September 2015, she serves as the British Deputy National Delegate of the European Council for Agricultural Law (CEDR).

Les recours collectifs québécois contre les fabricants de cigarettes ou le rôle des litiges judiciaires dans la poursuite d'objectifs de santé publique

25 novembre 2015, 16h15-18h, NCDH 312-316

Me Jean St-Onge, Mme Cynthia Callard et Dr Alain Poirier.

Ce panel interdisciplinaire s'est penché sur le rôle des litiges judiciaires dans la poursuite d'objectifs de santé publique, en portant une attention particulière sur les deux recours collectifs québécois contre les fabricants de cigarettes qui se sont soldés par un jugement conjoint en faveur des requérants pour la somme de 15 milliards de dollars en mai 2015 (Létourneau c. JTI-Macdonald Corp. et Conseil québécois sur la santé et le tabac c. JTI-Macdonald Corp.). L'affaire est présentement en appel.

Cette décision et la question générale du rôle des litiges judiciaires dans la poursuite d'objectifs de santé publique seront envisagées sous la lorgnette du droit, de la santé publique et des politiques publiques.

Cette décision et la question générale du rôle des litiges judiciaires dans la poursuite d'objectifs de santé publique ont été envisagés par nos trois panelistes: Me Jean Saint-Onge, associé, Lavery, un juriste spécialisé dans les recours collectifs; Dr Alain Poirier, VP développement scientifique et communications de l'Institut national de santé publique du Québec, et professeur à l'École de santé publique, Université de Montréal, un médecin spécialisé en santé publique; et Mme Cynthia Callard, directrice executive de Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, une spécialiste des politiques publiques.

Téléchargez un résumé en anglais [.pdf] ou un résumé en français [.pdf], le texte complet de la décision [.pdf] dans le cadre des deux recours collectifs québécois, ou encore les trois documents ensemble [.pdf]. Voyez l'annonce de l'événement pour les biographies des conférenciers.

Formation d’un dispensateur reconnu aux fins de la formation continue obligatoire du Barreau du Québec pour une durée de 1.5 heures


The Safewards Model - A talk with Len Bowers

Thursday, October 15 2015, 16:15-18:00, Maxwell-Cohen Moot Court (room 100), Chancellor-Day Hall

Psychiatric wards are not all the same. Some experience ten times more adverse incidents, violence, self-harm etc., than others. It is possible to have two wards at the same hospital, situated next door to one another, with one being very disturbed and the other being very quiet, yet both serving the same function and taking the same sorts of patients.

The Safewards Model explains how this can happen, and what we can do to help all our wards become quieter, calmer, more peaceful and safer places – for the patients and the staff. Interventions derived from the Safewards Model have been shown to work in a strictly randomised controlled trial – the gold standard of research evidence. In this presentation the model and the evidence behind it will be described.

Safewards has now been implemented in many places internationally, and is backed by a range of social media and online resources. The dissemination strategy and success will also be described, as will the consumer involvement that has accompanied the research programme from the beginning.

Le conférencier

Len Bowers est un infirmier diplômé en psychiatrie avec une expérience clinique et de gestion des patients requérant des soins intensifs à l’hôpital comme en communauté. Après avoir publié sa thèse de doctorat sous le titre The Social Nature of Mental Illness et un second ouvrage portant sur les attitudes positives chez les personnes ayant des troubles de la personnalité, allant chercher un lectorat élargi. Il a été Professeur à la City University (Londres), donnant le coup d’envoi à une programmation de recherche sur les soins aux patients hospitalisés et sur les moyens de réduire les conflits (violence, fugues, toxicomanie, non-observance des traitements, infraction aux règles) et sur la contention (contention chimique, isolement, surveillance spéciale, contrainte physique, etc.). Il dirige maintenant une équipe de recherche sur cette question à l’Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, a obtenu plus de 4M£ en subventions de recherche et a publié plus d’une centaine de travaux évalués par les pairs. Len Bowers donne régulièrement des conférences à l’étranger et, au Royaume-Uni, a conseillé le gouvernement britannique sur des questions de gouvernance et a contribué à la mise en place d’orientations pour la pratique des soins infirmiers en milieu psychiatrique.

Harm reduction and morally controversial behaviours: New legal and policy approaches to drug use, sex work, and physician-assisted dying

Monday, 23 March 2015, 12h-14h, NCDH 316

Le Groupe de recherche en santé et droit de McGill (RGHL) vous convie à sa dernière conférence de l'année universitaire, laquelle sera présentée par ses membres, la professeure Alana Klein et le professeur Daniel Weinstock.

The speakers will consider the growing tendency among public actors to reframe what were once considered morally controversial questions in terms of the reduction of harm.

Drawing on the examples of contemporary debates and legal developments around drug use sex work, and physician assisted dying, this workshop will consider the potential benefits, risks and consequences of engaging with controversial issues through the logic and lens of harm reduction.

For example, it will consider what motivates this type of framing, whether it can help achieve overlapping consensus around these fractious issues, as well as the moral limits of the use of this kind of reasoning in political and legal deliberation.

Le nombre de place est limité et un léger déjeuner sera servi: nous vous prions donc de confirmer votre présence en écrivant à rghl [dot] law [at] mcgill [dot] ca.


Rethinking the Revolving Door: Mental Health Courts in Canada and the US

Wednesday, 11 March 2015, 16h15-18h15, Maxwell Cohen Moot Court (NCDH 100)

The McGill Journal of Law and Health, Team VISEV, the McGill Institute of Health and Social Policy and the McGill Research Group on Health and Law are pleased to invite you to Rethinking the Revolving Door: Mental Health Courts in Canada and the US, an interdisciplinary panel with Dr. Virginia Aldigé Hiday (North Carolina State University) and Mr. Joe Wright (Ontario Review Board).

What outcomes have mental health courts generated for people with a mental illness and for the community? Gathering specialists from the legal, sociology and psychiatry fields, this panel considers the promises and shortfalls of mental health courts in Canada and the United States. The panel will be moderated by Professor Anne Crocker (Dept of psychiatry, McGill) and Professor Alana Klein (Faculty of Law, McGill).

Kindly RSVP by emailing rghl [dot] law [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

The Panelists

Joe R. Wright
Mr. Wright is currently legal counsel to the Ontario Review Board. A graduate of Queen’s University Faculty of Law, he has been a member of Legal Aid Ontario’s Advisory Committee on Mental Health Law, and also a member of the Toronto Forensic Mental Health Committee. From its inception in 1998, until 2004, he served as Mental Health Duty Counsel to Canada’s only full time dedicated mental health court, Old City Hall’s ‘102 Court’. He was responsible there for all aspects of representing accused persons, from determination of fitness to stand trial and assessment of criminal responsibility to conducting fitness hearings, bail hearings, guilty pleas and diversion of charges.

Virginia Alidé Hiday
Distinguished Professor of sociology at the North Carolina State University, Dr. Alidgé Hiday conducts studies in law and psychiatry, particularly outpatient civil commitment, mental health courts and violence, victimization and criminalization among persons with mental illness.

How Law Facilitated Pharmaceutical Fraud and How It Could Save Us

Wednesday, February 25, 2015, 16h-18h, Maxwell-Cohen Moot Court (NCDH 100)

Le Groupe de recherche en santé et droit a l'honneur de vous inviter à sa Conférence 2015 sur la santé et le droit, laquelle sera prononcée cette année par le professeur Trudo Lemmens, titulaire de la Chaire Scholl en droit et politique de la santé à l'Université de Toronto.


Since Thalidomide, the legal regime introduced to improve pharmaceutical product safety and efficacy has generated new administrative, industrial and scientific practices.  These practices, in combination with a host of social, cultural and scientific developments, including the emphasis on evidence-based medicine, have strengthened industry’s grip over pharmaceutical knowledge production. Statutory law and regulation have thereby facilitated fraud and misrepresentation, while industry’s growing control over scientific knowledge has also undermined the integrity of traditional tort mechanisms that could offer compensation to those affected by these practices.

Professor Lemmens will discuss these developments and briefly explore the strength and limits of some legal tools aimed at curbing this trend, paying particular attention to recent legal skirmishes related to transparency and access to data. Considering the central role of scientific knowledge and the impact of health care products on physical and mental integrity, he will argue that states have a human rights obligation to strengthen independent scientific knowledge production.

A request for accreditation as a continuing legal education activity has been made to the Barreau du Québec.

Kindly RSVP to rghl [dot] law [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

Population Biobanking, Autonomy and the Duty to Inform: Streamlining Access to Data while Protecting Participants

February 2, 2015, 12h30-14h00, NCDH 316

Ma’n H. Zawati, Academic Coordinator at the McGill Centre of Genomics and Policy and DCL candidate at the Faculty of Law, gave the second annual Seminar on Health and Law. 


In research, Canadian courts have maintained that participants are entitled to a "full and frank disclosure" and that researchers' duties in that regard are as great, if not greater, than the duties owed by physicians in the clinical setting. That being said, the increasingly longitudinal and international nature of research challenges the feasibility of maintaining such an expansive duty to inform.

Take population biobanks as an example. These longitudinal studies are limited in terms of what information they can provide to research participants during the initial consent process.

On the one hand, they are increasingly encouraged to provide access to their collections, but on the other hand, they are unable to provide participants with “full disclosure” on the future use of their data at the time of recruitment.

By re-examining conceptions at the heart of the legal duty to inform, this presentation will discuss ways in which population biobanks can continue to streamline access to data while protecting research participants.


Ma’n H. Zawati (LL.B., LL.M.) is a lawyer and the Academic Coordinator of the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University. He is currently completing his Doctoral degree in law (D.C.L.) at McGill University and is the Graduate Member of the McGill Research Group on Health and Law. Me Zawati is also an Associate Member of the University’s Biomedical Ethics Unit since 2013. His research focuses on the legal and ethical aspects of biobanking as well as the legal duties and liability of health care professionals in both the clinical and research settings. He has published numerous articles on issues such as access to genomic databases, the return of research results/incidental findings, the legal liability of physicians and the closure of biobanks. Me Zawati has also presented on these topics in Canada and internationally. Recently, the Young Bar Association of Montreal has named him as one of its “Lawyer of the Year” awardees for 2014.

Première édition des Rencontres en droit de la santé

Les 28 et 29 novembres 2014 se déroulait aux Facultés de droit des Université McGill de Montréal, en collaboration avec la Faculté de droit de l’Université de Sherbrooke, le Groupe de recherche en santé et droit de McGill, le Regroupement stratégique Droit et changements et la Chaire de recherche du Canada sur la culture collaborative en droit et politiques de la santé, la première édition des Rencontres en droit de la santé sous le thème Les grands conflits en droit de la santé.

Cette rencontre regroupait des professeurs et praticiens (avocats, professionnels de la santé et décideurs publics), ainsi que des chercheurs de la France et de la Suisse dans le but d’échanger de manière approfondie sur la thématique.

Quelques défis de l’intégration des médecines non conventionnelles dans un système de soins cartésien

27 novembre 2014, 12h00-13h30, salle 316, Nouveau Pavillon Chancellor-Day

Venez assister à une conférence du Groupe de recherche en Santé et Droit avec le Professeur Olivier Guillod, Directeur de l’Institut de droit de la santé, Université de Neuchâtel, Suisse.

Un léger déjeuner sera servi à midi et la conférence débutera 15 minutes après. Le nombre de places est limité: merci de confirmer votre présence: rghl [dot] law [at] mcgill [dot] ca. La conférence sera en français.


Dans les pays occidentaux, la population demande, et utilise, de plus en plus de diverses médecines dites non conventionnelles. Les uns y voient une ouverture bienvenue vers d’autres approches à la santé humaine. Les autres craignent un retour de l’obscurantisme.

Les juristes sont interpelés : quelle place aménager dans l’ordre juridique pour les médecines non conventionnelles ? Faut-il règlementer leur pratique ? Faut-il les rembourser par la sécurité sociale ?

Ces questions, et d’autres, seront explorées à partir de l’exemple de la Suisse, seul pays européen à avoir un article de sa Constitution consacré à ces médecines.


Moralism and Long Game Healthism in Public Health Ethics

September 11, 2014, 14:00-15:30, Institute for Health and Social Policy seminar room

Join us for a talk by John Coggon, Professor of Law and the Philosophy of Public Health, University of Southampton.

Building on evidence concerning the social determinants of health, a growing body of works within public health ethics has developed that sees sound health policy as being founded on concepts of social justice. However, there are scholars who deny the validity of theories that recommend the redistribution of resources with the aim of improving population health. Such protagonists advance arguments on empirical, theoretical, and normative grounds. Within public and political arenas, furthermore, we can observe a dominant position given to individual liberty, and a resistance to coercive policies, which are viewed as ‘nanny-statism’.

In parallel with the apparently irresolvable ideological debates, therefore, we find putative middle-way approaches to health policy, such as ‘nudge’. These are given as a theoretically and ethically robust—and practically realisable—means of achieving better health, without offending apparent side-constraints on what constitutes legitimate government activity.

With a focus on strategy and practical developments in relation to tobacco regulation, this paper explores political morality in long game health policies. It compares, and draws parallels between, debates on legal moralism and health promotion, and questions why concerns about moralism seem less acute when a goal—say eradication of smoking—is aimed to be achieved over decades, rather than through near-term prohibition. See poster.

Organized by the Institute for Health and Social Policy, and co-sponsored by the Montreal Health Equity Research Consortium and the Research Group in Health Law.

Location: IHSP seminar room, Charles Meredith House, 1130 Pine Avenue West, Montreal

Les principes et les mutations de l’expertise dans la culture juridique française : un regard comparé avec le projet de réforme de l’expertise au Québec

Le 27 février 2014, Groupe de recherche en santé et droit accueillait le professeur Etienne Vergès de l'Université de Grenoble. Le professeur Vergès a gracieusement accepté de partager ici sa présentation [.pdf] en ligne.


Le modèle français de l’expertise est imprégné de la culture juridique française. Cette culture est marquée par l’idée que, dans tout litige, il existe une vérité, et que l’objet du procès est de faire émerger cette vérité.

Les règles relatives à l’expertise sont inspirées de cette philosophie. Dans le modèle procédural classique, un expert judiciaire est désigné par le juge et il est chargé de dévoiler la vérité scientifique qui permettra de résoudre le litige. La controverse scientifique est relativement absente de ce modèle.

Pourtant, au cours des dernières décennies, cette culture a subi des mutations sous l’impulsion de nombreux phénomènes : apparition d’incertitudes scientifiques incontournables, développement de l’expertise privée dite « amiable », et création d’une procédure de recherche des preuves entre les parties et avant tout procès (procédure participative).

La conférence proposait donc de présenter les grands principes qui dominent le droit de l’expertise en France et les mutations contemporaines de ce mode de preuve. Elle a mis ces règles en perspective avec le projet de réforme de l’expertise au Québec.

January 22, 2014: Banning food ads aimed at children: Is Quebec’s regulatory model still cutting-edge?

For its 2014 Interdisciplinary Panel, the McGill Research Group on Health and Law invited Bill Jeffery, National Coordinator, Centre for Science in the Public Interest; Dr. Kristin Voigt, Institute for Health and Social Policy and Dept of Philosophy, McGill University; and Dr. Monique Potvin Kent, Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa (see the calendar entry for biographies).


For more than 30 years, Quebec has had some of the strictest consumer protection legislation in the world, banning commercial advertising directed at children under the age of 13. The Supreme Court of Canada famously upheld the ban as a justifiable restriction on freedom of speech in the 1989 decision in Irwin Toy v. Quebec (Attorney General), chiefly because of children’s unique vulnerability to advertising.

A current private member’s bill would seek to expand Quebec’s approach to Ontario. Further jurisdictions also look to Quebec as a model. Yet, restrictions on food advertising to children continue to attract controversy, with disputes over their effectiveness in curbing diet-related illness among children; their scope; their flexibility in the age of new forms of media and marketing; and their value in relation to industry-led approaches.

This interdisciplinary panel will explore legal, ethical, social science and policy dimensions of restrictions on food advertising to children, with a focus on the role of evidence in crafting public health policy and regulating industry practice.

RGHL/IHSP Annual Lecture with Thomas Pogge: Paying for Health Impact

Thomas PoggeOn October 11, 2013, the McGill Research Group on Health and Law (RGHL), in collaboration with the Institute for Social and Health Policy (IHSP), hosted its 6th Annual Lecture. It had the pleasure of welcoming renowned philosopher Thomas Pogge, Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University. Professor Pogge’s lecture, “Paying for Health Impact”, discussed an innovative idea, the Health Impact Fund (HIF), a mechanism intended to improve access to new medicines worldwide.

Professor Pogge explained how the HIF would give pharmaceutical innovators the option to be rewarded according to the incremental health impact of their product rather than through a patent-protected mark-up. This way, the HIF aims to stimulate the development of high-impact medicines (especially for currently neglected diseases), ensure their availability at low cost, and encourage innovators to market such medicines with the aim of reducing the global disease burden.


One-third of all human lives end in early death from poverty-related causes. Many of these premature deaths are avoidable through global health system reforms, including to the existing patent regime. The latter provides incentives for the development and distribution of new medicines; but it also leaves gaps, especially in poor regions. The Health Impact Fund (HIF) is a mechanism intended to fill these gaps and to improve access to new medicines worldwide.

The HIF would give pharmaceutical innovators the option to be rewarded according to the incremental health impact of their product rather than through a patent-protected mark-up. The HIF would stimulate the development of high-impact medicines (especially for currently neglected diseases), would ensure availability at low cost, and would encourage innovators to market such medicines with the aim of reducing the global disease burden.

The feasibility of this reform shows that the existing medical-patent regime is severely unjust. Professor Pogge will (a) introduce the HIF proposal and its moral justification, (b) discuss its implementation, funding, and economic viability, (c) explain its advantages for pharmaceutical firms as well as the benefits for the health and welfare of affluent and poor populations and (d) report on efforts to pilot the HIF idea in particular jurisdictions.

14 mars 2013: Le principe de précaution devant le juge civil

Mathilde BoutonnetMathilde Boutonnet, Maître de conférences en droit privé, Titulaire de la Chaire CNRS droit de l’environnement, Université Aix-Marseille.

Mathilde Boutonnet, Maître de conférences en droit privé and Titulaire de la Chaire CNRS droit de l’environnement at Université Aix-Marseille, gave a workshop on the treatment of the precautionary principle by the civilian judge applying private law principles.

In addition to addressing the use of the precautionary principle in the context of environmental liability, Prof. Boutonnet discussed the application by civilian judges of this principle to private litigation involving issues of health and safety.

She demonstrated that the precautionary principle has a role in both prevention and reparation in private law matters affected by scientific uncertainty as risks to environment and health.

13 February 2013: Listening for Lawyers

Dr Abraham FuksAbraham Fuks, Professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University and member of the Research Group in Health and Law, gave a workshop on February 13, 2013 on Listening for Lawyers.

Dr. Fuks analyzed the critical role that active listening plays in overcoming obstacles and building trust within the client-advocate relationship.

He explored the societal, professional and personal barriers to skillful listening, while examining the vital role that listening plays in effective client-centred advocacy by drawing parallels between the physician-patient relationship in healing and the lawyer’s relationship with their client.

30 January 2013: Equality and Health: Reaching for Resolution in the Realms of Disability Rights?

This year's Annual Lecture in Health and Law was presented by Anna Lawson, Deputy Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Disability Studies, University of Leeds.

Ms Lawson's lecture reflected on the relationship between the concepts of equality and health in the disability context. It considered ways in which the demands of “health” have often been used to override those of “equality”. As well as having profound implications for the lives of disabled people, this has had significant political and theoretical repercussions. The harmful impact of neglecting the demands of equality on the health of disabled people was also considered.

The lecture concluded by a reflection on the extent to which tensions between “equality” and “health” have been resolved, and on what factors, if any, are contributing to achieving greater reconciliation. This discussion was set against the backdrop of international developments and, in particular, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This event was organized in collaboration with McGill's Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism.

Sex Work, Rights, and the Criminal Law: Reflections on Bedford v. Canada

On October 31, the RGHL welcomed over 100 students, lawyers, professors and stakeholders to Sex Work, Rights, and the Criminal Law: Reflections on Bedford v. Canada, the RGHL's interdisciplinary panel for the 2012-2013 academic year. Read about the panel in Focus online's November 2012 edition.

The panel, moderated by Professor Alana Klein (leftmost), brought together three panelists from different professional settings to address various issues associated with the Ontario Court of Appeal's decision in Bedford v. Canada. 

Alana Klein, Daniel Weinstock, Tara Santini, Alan Young

Our panelists were Professor Daniel Weinstock, Faculty of Law, McGill University; Ms Tara Santini, Member of Stella and Consultant for Stella for Intervening Sex Worker Coalition in Bedford v. Canada; and Professor Alan N. Young, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and counsel in Bedford v. Canada.

July 3-6, 2012: Meeting of the Réseau Innovations technologiques, incertitude des risques et droit de la responsabilité

The newly created international Réseau Innovations technologiques, incertitude des risques et droit de la responsabilité (Technological Innovations, Uncertainty and the Law of Liability Network) held its first meeting at the Faculty of Law of McGill University in early July, organized by Etienne Vergès (Université Grenoble 2) and Lara Khoury (McGill University).

The Network’s objective is to collaboratively examine a fundamental issue at the intersection of law and technology: the necessary transformation of the law of civil liability in response to the uncertainty of the risks associated with modern technological developments. As part of this meeting, the network members delivered presentations on their area of expertise related to the network theme.


Sébastien Pimont, Université de Savoie, France
Innovations technologiques, incertitudes et écriture doctrinale du droit de la responsabilité

Vincent Forray, Université McGill, Canada
L'incertitude du risque et les dialectiques de la responsabilité

Etienne Vergès, Université Pierre-Mendès-France (Grenoble 2), France
Les risques et incertitudes liés aux innovations scientifiques et le droit français de la responsabilité civile : entre rupture et continuité

Christophe Quezel-Ambrunaz, Université Pierre-Mendès-France (Grenoble 2), France
La doctrine face aux innovations juridiques consécutives aux innovations scientifiques

Ken Oliphant, Directeur, Institute for European Tort Law, Autriche
Tort Law, Risk, and Technological Change in England

Geneviève Schamps, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgique
Le Fonds des accidents médicaux et le risque lié aux évolutions de la biomédecine : perspectives d’indemnisation en droit belge

Marie-Ève Arbour, Université Laval, Canada
Le risque de développement sous l’éclairage du droit comparé/The Risk Development Defense through the Lenses of Comparative Law
Umberto Izzo, Université de Trento, Italie
Tort Law, Uncertainty, and the Concept of Precautionary Information. Accommodating the Operational Meanings  of the "Traditional Concepts" of Negligence and Strict Liability in the Reality of the Digital Information Era

Trudo Lemmens, Université de Toronto, Canada
L’accès à l’information et le droit à la santé : la transparence des essais cliniques comme une obligation dans le contexte des droits de l’homme

Ma’n H. Zawati, Université McGill, Canada
Biobanques populationnelles : incertitude, réciprocité et l’obligation de renseignement du médecin-chercheur

Philippe Brun, Université de Savoie, France
Exigence de causalité et incertitude scientifique: analyse critique des solutions du droit français

Lara Khoury, Université McGill, Canada
Le juge et l’incertitude causale en droit canadien, anglais et australien

Richard S. Goldberg, University of Aberdeen, Écosse
Scientific uncertainty, causation and drug product liability

Laurène Mazeau,  Université Pierre-Mendès-France (Grenoble 2), France
L’imputation de la responsabilité civile en contexte d’incertitude scientifique et technologique

Quatrième conférence annuelle en santé et droit -18 janvier 2012
Évolution du droit de la procréation assistée: La bioéthique à la française

G à D: Jean-Louis Beaudoin, Frédérique Dreifuss-Netter et Nicolas Kasirer avant la conférence.

La Conférence annuelle en santé et droit s'est avérée un plein succès cette année.

La présence de Madame Frédérique Dreifuss-Netter, conseiller à la première chambre civile de la Cour de cassation en France, a attiré une centaine de personnes, un public mixte composé d’étudiants, de professeurs, d’avocats et de membres de la Cour d’appel du Québec et de la Cour supérieure.

Madame Dreifuss-Netter, en charge aujourd’hui des affaires de responsabilité médicale de la Cour, est une bioéthicienne et spécialiste du droit médical renommée en France grâce à une longue carrière universitaire précédant sa nomination à la Cour.

Après le mot d’ouverture prononcé par L’Honorable Nicholas Kasirer, Madame Dreifuss-Netter a donné une conférence impressionnante et stimulante intitulée “Évolution du droit de la procréation assistée: La bioéthique à la française”. Le mot de clôture a été prononcé par L’Honorable Jean-Louis Baudouin.

State Incentives to Promote Organ Donation: Can a System of Rewarded Gifting Ease the Organ Shortage? - November 9, 2011

Mélanie Mader, Postdoctoral Fellow, Research Group on Health and Law

Mélanie Mader

Organ transplantation is a very successful medical procedure, which saves the lives of thousands of patients worldwide every year. However, this success is limited by a major problem: a chronic shortage of transplantable organs.

In this seminar, we consider the medical, social and economic issues raised by transplantation medicine and define organ shortage as a public health problem. Based on this premise, we present the idea of establishing a public policy to promote organ donation within the Swiss legal system.

As part of a public policy, the State can use incentives, i.e., regulatory instruments to reward organ donation. Considering legal and ethical constraints, we show how these incentives can be designed to increase organ donation rates without violating the prohibition of organ sales.

This argument leads us to envision several innovative incentives such as tax breaks for willing donors; priority status on the waiting list for a registered donor should he or she ever need an organ transplant; discounts on health insurance premiums; or a rebate on a donor's funeral costs. Finally, we discuss examples of States where some of these incentives have been adopted.

See also Focus online: The Laws of the Heart - Mélanie Mader on organ transplantation.

The Risks and Promises of Pharmacogenetics and Personalized Medicine: An Interdisciplinary Panel Discussion - October 5, 2011

This well-attended and enlightening panel discussion brought together four panelists hailing from different academic areas and professional settings to address various issues associated with pharmacogenetics and personalized medicine. Professor Richard Gold was the moderator.


Jennifer Fishman, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Ethics Unit and Department of Social Studies of Medicine, McGill University

Yann Joly, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University

Agnes V. Klein, Director, Health Products & Food Branch, Health Canada

Michael Phillips, Associate Professor & Canada Research Chair in Translational Pharmacogenomics, Pharmacogenomics Centre, Université de Montréal

Time and place: 12h30-14h30, Room 312, New Chancellor Day Hall, 3644 Peel Street

Download: Pharmacogenetics Panel Poster

Lunch will be served. Space is limited. Kindly RSVP to rghl [dot] law [at] mcgill [dot] ca

Richard Goldberg on "The Rise and Fall of the Measles Mumps Rubella Litigation: An Anglo-American Comparison" - April 1, 2011

 Dr. Richard Goldberg, King's College, University of Aberdeen, School of Law

Dr. Richard Goldberg, King's College, University of Aberdeen, School of Law, gave an insightful, thought-provoking talk on the various legal implications surrounding the controversy of the MMR vaccine on autism, both in the United Kingdom and the USA. The lunchtime conference was well-attended and the Q&A session ranged across many ideas.

Dr. Goldberg is visiting the Faculty for part of the month of April. He is a specialist of product liability, medical and pharmaceutical law, IP, and tort and is widely published in these areas.

Full bio:

Jocelyn Downie gives 3rd Annual Lecture on Health & Law - January 13, 2011

Jocelyn Downie

Jocelyn Downie, Canada Research Chair in Health Law & Policy and Professor in the Faculties of Law and Medicine at Dalhousie University, delivered a lecture on euthanasia, assisted suicide and the law on January 13, 2011.

In this talk, Jocelyn Downie reviewed the state of end of life law and policy in Canada and offered up a position on what Quebec (and other jurisdictions at various levels of government) could and should do in response to calls for the decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Read the article posted on Wednesday, January 26, 2011, in the McGill Reporter: Just Dying: A Discussion of Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and the Law, by Pascal Zamprelli.

Calendar entry and abstract: "Just Dying: A Discussion of Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and the Law."

Welcome to Postdoctoral Researcher Mélanie Mader

Mélanie Mader

The McGill Research Group on Health and Law (RGHL) is pleased to announce that Dr. Mélanie Mader has joined the Faculty of Law as a Postdoctoral Researcher for one year, starting this January.

Dr. Mader brings to the RGHL an extensive background in public health, health law and ethics, and medical liability. Dr. Mader recently obtained her Ph.D. from University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Her dissertation, which focused on regimes governing compensation for organ donation, has very recently been published as a book (Collection neuchâteloise, Helbing Lichtenhahn, 2010).

Dr. Mader also holds an LL.M. from Cambridge University and a law degree from the University of Neuchâtel. Before joining McGill, she was a visiting researcher at the University of Montreal’s Centre de recherche en droit public.

Mélanie Mader has also served as a member of municipal parliament in the Swiss municipality of Köniz, and is fluent in French, English and German.

She was interviewed in the Faculty's online magazine, Focus online, in February 2011.

The Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project - 2 November 2010

Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project (KSDPP)

On November 2, 2010, Dr. Ann C. Macaulay, Professor of Family Medicine, McGill Department of Family Medicine, and Director of Participatory Research at McGill (PRAM), and Morgan Kahentonni Phillips, a community researcher in the Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research, did a joint presentation on a health project that involved developing and maintaining research partnerships with Aboriginal communities and organizations in Kahnawake.

See the complete calendar entry.

Download the Presentation .

Lawrence Gostin gives 2nd Annual Lecture in Health and Law - 25 March 2010

The subject of his talk was "Meeting the Basic Survival Needs of the World’s Least Healthy People: Toward a Framework Convention on Global Health."

This lecture was sponsored in part by the McGill Beatty Memorial Lecture Series. 

On March 25, 2010, the Research Group on Health and Law was proud to host Professor Lawrence Gostin (Georgetown U.), who delivered the 2nd Annual Lecture in Health and Law on how developped countries need to ensure the basic survival needs of the world’s least healthy people.

On March 25, 2010, the Research Group on Health and Law hosted Professor Lawrence Gostin (Georgetown U.), who delivered the <a  data-cke-saved-href=2nd Annual Lecture in Health and Law on how developped countries need to ensure the basic survival needs of the world’s least healthy people. This lecture was sponsored in part by the McGill Beatty Memorial Lecture Series.