National Health Law Conference 2004

Who Gets It? Who Decides?
Issues of Access and Allocation in Health Care

23-24 January 2004
Sutton Place Hotel,
955 Bay Street, Toronto

The Event

The Canadian health care system is well known and well respected for its attempt to provide comprehensive and public health care coverage to the Canadian population. However, this system is not immune to the ills that face all health care systems such as scarce resources (funding and otherwise), long waiting times for some services, opaque governance structures and a need to determine whether to fund new technological changes in health care delivery. And if these problems are hard to solve in a comparatively 'well-off' country like Canada, how do developing nations address these issues? If we want to examine how these situations arise, shouldn't we look at the decisions being made in terms of allocating the resources and determining what services to fund publicly and who gets those services?

Over 200 people including academics, policy makers, decision makers and other participants in the Canadian health care system registered to hear presentations and discussion regarding the questions above.

Schedule and Presentations

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is sponsoring the publication of a book comprised of chapter submitted by the speakers at the conference. The book will be titled The Frontiers of Fairness and is due for publication in early 2005.

Borden Ladner Gervais Public Lecture

Borden Lardner GervaisWith the support of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Professor Lawrence O. Gostin gave a splendid public lecture on Thursday 22 January to kick off the conference weekend. The lecture was attended to the maximum capacity of the Bennett Lecture Hall at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. Professor Gostin's talk was based on an article that has now appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): Gostin L, Bayer R, and Fairchild A, Ethical and Legal Challenges Posed by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - Implications for the Control of Severe Infectious Disease Threats, JAMA 2003; 290:3229-3237.

Professor Gostin is a leading figure in human rights and public health debates. His list of achievements is many and varied - for a full profile, go to the conference schedule and click on his name. A few of his qualifications include being an elected lifetime Member of the Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences (IOM/NAS). He is also an elected lifetime Fellow of the Hastings Center. He is appointed by the Secretary for Health and Human Services to serve on the Advisory Council of the Office of AIDS Research, National Institutes of Health. Professor Gostin also consults for the World Health Organization and the Council of International Organizations for Medical Sciences. Professor Gostin is the Health Law and Ethics Editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He is also on the editorial board of scholarly journals, including the Yale J. on Regulation, Milbank Quart., Int’l J. of Bioethics, and the Int’l. J. of Health & Human Rights. Formerly, Professor Gostin was Editor-in-Chief of the J. of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Executive Editor of the American J. of Law & Med., and Western European Editor of the Int’l. J. of Law & Psychiatry.

We were very honoured and privileged to have Professor Gostin speak on this occasion, in honour of his friend and colleague Bernard Dickens. We are also very appreciative of the assistance of Borden Ladner Gervais in bringing Professor Gostin to Toronto.

WeirFoulds Student Poster/Paper Competition

WeirFouldsWith the support of Weir Foulds LLP, several students were given the opportunity to present the results of research on a topic related to health law and policy. The conference organisers received many submissions and the judging panel were sorely tested in determining the winning students. The winners received free travel, accommodation and registration to the conference.


Our winners were:

Paper Presentations

Poster Presentations

  • Fiona Moore (Alberta)
  • Patricia Wong (Queens)
  • Krystyne Rusek (Toronto)
  • Nicole Kutlesa (Osgoode) (poster and handout)

Honourable mentions go to Birinder Singh (UWO) and Lori Sheremeta (Alberta).


Speakers from around Canada, the US and Europe appeared at the conference. Go to the conference schedule and click on a speaker’s name to be directed to their faculty bio.

As well as the session speakers, we also had two distinguished guests speaking at the respective lunch breaks on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, the 'man of the moment', Professor Bernard Dickens spoke to the conference participants. On Saturday, Michael Decter spoke on the subject of "Canada's Dysfunctional Health Family: Bringing Up the Baby Health Council".

Dining Out on a Splendid Career

At the end of Friday's sessions, participants enjoyed a marvellous dinner at the Sutton Place Hotel's exclusive top floor restaurant, "Stop 33". The dinner was generously supported by Gowlings LLP. We would also like to note the assistance of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Institute of Health Services and Policy Research.

The dinner’s guest of honour was Professor Bernard Dickens from the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. After a distinguished career already spanning over four decades, Bernard is retiring from academia – officially – although rumour has it that he expects to continue doing “more of the same”. We were delighted to celebrate his remarkable achievements at this dinner.

You can find out more about Bernard and his career at his profile on the University of Toronto Faculty of Law website.

Health Law & Policy Group, University of Toronto

From a quiet conception, the health law and policy programme at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, has grown into a vibrant and vital branch of the Law School.

The Health Law and Policy Group emerged from the research and teaching interests of numerous faculty members in issues relating to health care and medicine.

Its members have expertise in a broad spectrum of areas including:
bioethics, constitutional law, drug regulation, end-of-life issues, genetics, health systems and insurance, human rights law, reproductive and sexual health law, and research ethics and research regulation.

The HL&P Group currently includes:
Sujit Choudhry, Rebecca Cook, Bernard Dickens, Colleen Flood, and Trudo Lemmens.

You can see more about the HL&P Group’s work at their website:

Conference Steering Committee

The conference organisers worked to ensure a national flavour to this event. This is reflected in the wide representation on the conference steering committee. The organisers wish to thank the following people for their assistance, encouragement and membership on this committee:

  • Professor Colleen M. Flood, Canada Research Chair, University of Toronto
  • Professor Tim Caulfield, Canada Research Chair, University of Alberta
  • Professor Jocelyn Downie, Canada Research Chair, Dalhousie University
  • Professor Patricia Peppin, Queens University
  • Professor Roxanne Mykitiuk, York University
  • Professor Joan Gilmour, York University

Contact Us

For more information about the conference, please contact Greig Hinds at or on 416 946 7464.


The conference organisers are pleased to have received support from the following organisations (in alphabetical order):

WeirFouldsOntario Genomics Institute
University of Toronto Faculty of Law CHSRF/FCRSS

Government of Ontario