Last Tuesday evening (Feb 9), the Research Group on Health and Law was thrilled to welcome Me Eric Maldoff of the national law firm, Heenan Blaikie, to deliver our second workshop in health law for 2009-2010 entitled Health Law on the Ground. Me Maldoff is an exceptionally skilled jurist whose experience spans across an impressive breadth of topic areas. In his presentation, he offered a number of stories drawn from his practice as a lawyer and negotiator which spoke to the challenges of legal work that engages with health law and health care governance. Recounting tales of his own involvement with negotiations over the new MUHC super hospital, the creation of the CIHR and, as a student-at-law, in the Morgentaler litigation before the Supreme Court, Me Maldoff’s workshop offered incredible insight into the power that the legal profession can wield in developing and reforming social policy and law, specifically in connection with health and health care.
Based on the questions that followed the presentation, it seemed that the topic Me Maldoff addressed that engaged most strikingly with audience members was his work with the Innu of Davis Inlet as Chief Federal Negotiator. The issues raised touched on matters of education, development and poverty rather than explicitly on healthy. At the same time, health law-related matters were embedded in his discussion. Specifically, Me Maldoff suggested that questions about how to craft meaningful educational opportunities for a population that has been affected so adversely by a legacy of colonialism, poverty and social and political exclusion and neglect requires a careful analysis of the health status of a community. So, too, does this endeavour require an investigation into health care access in this setting. How is it possible to develop appropriate schooling programs and to ensure that the population accepts and completes these programs without working with the community and appreciating whether and how they members themselves as a healthy population in all respects? The workshop revealed how meeting these objectives required a careful and holistic analysis, a willingness to learn with and from negotiating partners, and a perception of well-being that extends beyond what can be provided by medical resources alone.
In sum, these experiences recounted by Me Maldoff illuminate how engaging with the world of health law must mean more than appreciating the doctrine of consent or the Canada Health Act. Rather, it is a world that demands openness to the study of various disciplines, to work across a range of cultural and community settings, and a solid degree of courage and vision with a view to effecting durable improvements in health outcomes. None of this, of course, should be viewed as new or surprising, but instead, should reaffirm an understanding of health law as necessarily drawing upon a range of skills and a body of knowledge that might not necessarily be construed as “juridical” at first glance but which undoubtedly benefits from the knowledge.
NOTE: The next workshop of the McGill Research Group on Health and Law will take place on Tuesday, April 13 at 5 pm. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Anne Crocker, Director, Services, policy and population health axis at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (http://crocker.mcgill.ca/).
Convener, McGill Research Group on Health and Law