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McGill Research Group on Health and Law

Health Law at McGill (picture of Themis and Hermes)

Ottawa-McGill Graduate Students Colloquium in Health Law, 6 May 2016

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

Publication du livre Les grands conflits en droit de la santé

Le Groupe de recherche en santé et droit de McGill est fier d'annoncer la publication du livre Les grands conflits en droit de la santé auquel ont contribué les membres du Groupe et professeurs Alana Klein, Antonia Maioni, Christopher Manfredi, Lara Khoury, et Me Nathalie Lecoq.

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

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)

Professor Erdman presented her work twice at McGill:

9 March 2016, 13h-14h30, IHSP, Charles Meredith House, 1130 ave des Pins Ouest

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


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 RGHL welcomed Dr. Ivana Isailovic for a talk on health policies in Europe.


In recent years, 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. This presentation will analyze 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 will also highlight some of the consequences of this interpretation of the Convention, which may have unintended effects on these individuals’ human rights.

The speaker

Ivana Isailovic is the Boulton Fellow at McGill University. She previously worked at the Equality Law Clinic at Université Libre de Bruxelles on human rights issues with abortion rights activists and transgender communities. She holds a PhD from Sciences Po Law School and a Master’s degree in international law from Université Paris 1 Sorbonne.

Health as a social and academic priority

Health issues are at the forefront of modern social preoccupations in Canada. McGill’s Faculty of Law offers an array of opportunities for those who seek to explore these issues through academic study and research.

Public health, aging, health and the environment, biotechnologies, global health, the growing prevalence of obesity and other chronic health conditions and illnesses, HIV/AIDS and the spread of infectious diseases, access to health care institutions and technology, the governance of health care institutions, human rights and health, clinical research and the protection of human research subjects, social diversity and health, and Aboriginal health exemplify topics of preeminence in the minds of Canadians that McGill’s Faculty of Law has also identified as priorities.

A tradition

McGill’s Faculty of Law has a strong tradition in health law. Emeritus Professor Paul-André Crépeau (1975-1994) published a seminal work titled La responsabilité civile du médecin et de l'établissement hospitalier in 1956, which contributed in a major way to the development of Medical Law in Quebec. It houses the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, founded in 1986, whose founding director, Margaret A. Somerville, is a prominent scholar in Bioethics. The Crépeau Centre for Private & Comparative Law , founded in 1975, also demonstrates the Faculty’s commitment to health law through, inter alia, the work of Me Pierre Deschamps C.M., Project Director - Medical Law and the Ethics of Research and Organisations.

Teaching and research in health law

McGill University and its Faculty of Law offer an exceptional and unique space for transsystemic, comparative and pluridisciplinary pedagogy and scholarship on health law matters. A number of courses that address health law and policy questions are offered to our undergraduate and graduate students. Several colleagues also act as supervisors to graduate students working on projects that deal with issues of health and medical law.

Health research initiatives underway at McGill’s Faculty of Law investigate diverse themes of pressing importance within both academic and societal realms. The Law Faculty is also host to various research centres which oversee work bearing a direct impact on health issues. In recognition of the growing importance of this discipline, the McGill Research Group on Health and Law was formed with a view to advancing health law research within the Faculty of Law.

Vibrant student initiatives

Students at McGill Law are also at the core of the Faculty’s commitment to teaching and research in the area of health law. The Faculty-wide enthusiasm for health law studies is demonstrated by student initiatives such as the McGill Journal of Law and Health.