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Protecting Research Confidentiality
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Protecting Research Confidentiality

What happens when law and ethics collide

By Ted Palys and John Lowman

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Lawyers and their clients can talk in complete confidence, secure that the law protects what they say from being revealed to anyone. Priests can hear confessions with reasonable certainty that no court and no government will require them to speak of what they hear. But what about people who agree to help scientific researchers?

In 1994 a Simon Fraser graduate student faced the threat of being required by a court to disclose information he had obtained in his research on assisted suicide. He had given his research informants a promise of confidentiality. His dilemma, and his decision to refuse to identify his sources in the face of a threat of a court order, triggered a debate first at the university, then across Canada, on the ethics and law of research confidentiality. The examination of this case, and others in Canada and the United States, reveals the complex issues that arise when parties in criminal and civil trials seek to disclose confidential research information.

Many professionals -- including journalists, lawyers, social workers, accountants, therapists, physicians, and police officers -- depend on the expectation of confidentiality from people they deal with every day. This book provides the most comprehensive available discussion of confidentiality in research, a good understanding of what the law says today, and how it needs to be changed to ensure that the public interest is served.

Table of Contents

Foreword by James L. Turk

I Threats to Research Confidentiality

II Ogden’s Research on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

III The Coroner, the Media, and SFU

IV Defending Research Participants

V Protecting Research Participants, or Protecting the University from Research Participants?

VI Ogden v. SFU

VII The Federal Government’s Research Ethics Agenda

VIII Justice for Ogden

IX Challenging Institutional Conflict of Interest

X Meeting with the Ethics Committee

XI Caveat Emptor Ethics

XII An Unusual Research Opportunity

XIII SFU’s Administrative Culture: “Up On Dat Mountain, Dey Is Stuck Real Good”

XIV SFU’s “Hollow and Timid” Defence of Academic Freedom

XV Dialogue with the Ethics Committee Continues

XVI What the Dickens?

XVII The TCPS Is Released

XVIII The Russel Ogden Decision Review

XIX “Researchers Should Be Aware of the Relevant Law”

XX Implementing Wigmore Part I: Prerequisites for Consideration

XXI Implementing Wigmore Part II: When the Rubber Hits the Road

XXII Kangaroo Court

XXIII Limited Confidentiality 2.0: The SFU Ethics Committee’s “Duty to Report”

XXIV Making Ethics More Legal, or Law More Ethical?

XXV What If?

XXVI The National Scene

XXVII Answer to a Riddle

XXVIII University Accountability on Trial

XXIX The “Jimmy” Interview: The Importance of “Good Facts”

XXX Going the Distance


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TED PALYS and JOHN LOWMAN are both distinguished criminologists at Simon Fraser University. They have published widely on a variety of topics in their areas of research.

Ted Palys is a professor in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. His areas of research and teaching include research methods and the sociology of knowledge; relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and internationally; and the ethics and law of research confidentiality. He lives in Vancouver.

John Lowman is a professor in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. He studies prostitution, prostitution law, and prostitution law enforcement in Canada. Since 1997 he has written with Ted Palys extensively about the ethics and law of research confidentiality. He lives in Vancouver.

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Publication Details:

Binding: Paperback, 432 pages
Publication Date: 1st October 2014
ISBN: 9781459407039
Format: 9in x 6in

Binding: Electronic book text
Publication Date: 1st October 2014
ISBN: 9781459407046
Format: EPUB

BISAC Code:  LAW081000, POL000000
Imprint: Lorimer


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