Inquiry ordered after heart study arrested

April 11, 2003

An inquiry has started into possible violations of academic freedom by a Canadian teaching hospital after a Halifax doctor had her research interrupted for five months.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has appointed an independent committee to look into the case of Gabrielle Horne, whose heart research was unable to proceed after her hospital, citing patient safety, refused to allow her access to clinical subjects.

Dr Horne's interdisciplinary team had been studying the properties of the wall between the heart's two pumping chambers for the past two years. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research have both funded her pioneering approach to heart failure.

Dr Horne is considered a "translational" researcher, with a cross-appointment as a professor at Dalhousie University and a cardiologist at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.

Dr Horne said her research was interrupted due to actions by the hospital that she felt were inappropriate. She said she could not discuss further details.

The hospital reinstated her privileges two weeks after Dalhousie vice-president academic Sam Scully met with hospital administrators.

Dr Scully said the relationship between hospitals and universities required them to work through differences.

"Unless we can work out those relational problems, the individual researcher is likely to remain at risk," he said.

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