Sociological Practice

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 245–264 | Cite as

Ethics and Institutional Conflict of Interest: The Research Confidentiality Controversy at Simon Fraser University

  • John Lowman
  • Ted Palys


This paper describes the lengthy controversy at Simon Fraser University (SFU) over academic freedom and the ethics and law of research confidentiality that began when the Vancouver Coroner subpoenaed criminology graduate student Russel Ogden to testify at an inquest. There were two parts to the controversy. The first concerned the SFU administration's failure to mount a legal defense of Ogden's undertaking to keep “absolutely confidential” the identities of participants in his study of assisted suicide and euthanasia of persons with AIDS. The second concerned the threat to academic freedom created by the administration's subsequent imposition of “limited confidentiality” on researchers according to its “Law of the Land” doctrine of research ethics. We examine these controversies and the institutional conflict of interest underlying them in light of the ethical principles for research with human subjects laid out in various disciplinary ethics codes and, after the fact, by the Tri-Council Policy Statement, the research ethics code created by Canada's three federal research-granting agencies.

ethics confidentiality testimonial privilege administrative conflict of interest 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Lowman
    • 1
  • Ted Palys
    • 2
  1. 1.School of CriminologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.School of CriminologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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