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HOSPITALS AND HEALTH CARE FACILITIES - Administration - Scientific Research - Standards

Tuesday, August 08, 2017 @ 8:37 AM  


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Application by Asa and Ezzat for judicial review of findings of misconduct by the University Health Network. The applicants were world-renowned cancer researchers. The respondent was a multi-site public hospital that operated five research institutes within Toronto. The respondent was advised that certain publications by the applicants in academic journals contained figures and images that were modified or enhanced in a manner contrary to the scientific community's generally accepted standards. The applicants were advised of the nature of the allegations, the respondent's research misconduct policy, and the creation of an internal investigation comprised of three scientists. The investigation committee found the applicants engaged in research misconduct due to non-compliance with accepted standards. The applicants' research activities were suspended pending the ongoing investigation. The applicants appealed in accordance with the respondent's policy and the decision was affirmed. Following a judicial review decision, the respondent reconsidered the sanction and confirmed it was appropriate. The reconsidered sanction was affirmed by the respondent on appeal. Thereafter, a second investigation committee concluded the applicants committed research misconduct due to non-compliance with accepted standards in respect of a wider sample of their work. The suspension of research privileges was made permanent and the applicants' research laboratory was closed. The applicants sought judicial review.

HELD: Application dismissed. The reconsidered sanction involved appropriate consideration of the prior judicial review judgment. The respondent made it clear that the reconsidered sanction related to a failure to control publication quality rather than fabrication or falsification. The respondent's confirmation of the reconsidered sanction following an internal appeal by the applicants was not unreasonable given the seriousness of a finding of research misconduct within the scientific community. The decision and sanction by the second investigation committee was not unreasonable, did not involve a failure to consider material evidence or the applicants' submissions, and was supported by sufficient reasons. No reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the respondent's president was established.

Asa v. University Health Network, [2017] O.J. No. 3679, Ontario Superior Court of Justice - Divisional Court, I.V.B. Nordheimer, R.J. Smith and H.J. Wilton-Siegel JJ., July 13, 2017. Digest No. TLD-August72017001