Academic freedom and assisted suicide

I just heard a story on CBC radio about Russell Odgen, a sociology instructor at Kwantlen University College who researches assisted suicide.

An article in the Vancouver Sun states “Despite receiving earlier ethics board approval, Ogden has since been told by Kwantlen’s administration he cannot “engage in any illegal activity, including attending at an assisted death,” says a CAUT letter written by (James) Turk (Executive Director of the CAUT), which was addressed to eight academics and administrators.”

Someone (likely Turk, but the morning caffeine hadn’t taken effect yet) on the the CBC radio interview stated that there was no case law in this area, so Kwantlen administration couldn’t argue that the research was illegal.A   He also argued that much like before abortion became legal it was important and valuable to study what was happening with illegal abortions to better understand what was happening so that laws and public policy could be crafted.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has formed a committee to look into why Ogden’s research is being blocked by university administration.

The CAUT`s statement on academic freedom is:

Academic freedom is the life blood of the modern university. It is the right to teach, learn, study and publish free of orthodoxy or threat of reprisal and discrimination. It includes the right to criticize the university and the right to participate in its governance. Tenure provides a foundation for academic freedom by ensuring that academic staff cannot be dismissed without just cause and rigorous due process.

The full CAUT policy statement is here.

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