Debates

We've curated important conversations about various aspects of health care in Canada. Some of our debates are classic clashes between opposing views. Others consist of multiple perspectives that fall along a spectrum of opinion. And some are timelines that show the development of a big story over a long period.

Video

The COVID Debates: Should the COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory for all health-care workers?

Debate
Posted: Dec 15, 2021

Be it resolved the COVID-19 vaccine should be mandatory for all health-care workers

Doctors Amit Arya, Allison McGeer, Kali Barrett, and Stefan Baral face off over whether COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory in a civil but sharply argued debate that covers some of the most contentious topics in health care, including systemic inequities, vaccine hesitancy, the state of long-term care, and more.

Yes
VS
No
Timeline
by Amit Arya

Vaccinations should be mandatory for all health-care workers because they will keep vulnerable patients safe. We know this from our experience successfully mandating vaccination among staff in long-term care. Furthermore, vaccine mandates should not be blamed for staff shortages in the health-care system.

by Allison McGeer

Vaccine mandates will lead good health-care workers to be fired, thereby exacerbating systemic inequities – and all for a rationale that appeals to patient safety but which does not always stand up to scrutiny. We also can't allow vaccine mandates to send the message that we no longer need to use multiple complementary infection-control measures.

by Kali Barrett

Vaccines must be mandatory in all health-care settings in order to protect patients, protect health-care workers and prevent future health-care worker shortages. Furthermore, hospitals are temples of science, and we need to make decisions based on science – such as mandating vaccination.

by Stefan Baral

Mandating COVID-19 vaccines amounts to a passive and insensitive infection-control measure that does not address the real drivers of COVID-19 infection. Moreover, it deviates from the core principles of public health, eroding trust between public health and those it serves.

Debate
Posted: Jan 4, 2022

Debate: Be it resolved that school closures should never be used to stop the spread of COVID-19

In June 2021, Ari Bitnun, Andrew Morris, Jennifer Grant, Colin Furness, and Martha Fulford debated a notion that has once again become the subject of intense dispute as Canada sees a huge spike in COVID-19 cases: whether schools should never be closed as a means of limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Yes
VS
No
Timeline
by Ari Bitnun

We should never have closed schools because there is no compelling reason to do so. Not only are children at very low risk of developing severe COVID-19, but schools are also not significant sites of transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

by Andrew Morris

We should not rule out school closures, since even though the short-term consequences of COVID-19 on children generally appear to be mild, they are not always benign – and no-one even knows what the long-term effects are. Furthermore, transmission does occur within schools, which can endanger not only schoolchildren but the broader community.

Debate
Posted: Nov 25, 2021

Should vaccine passports be part of our public health strategy?

Two high-profile epidemiologists share their differing views on using vaccine certificates to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

by Max Binks-Collier

Physician-epidemiologist Stefan Baral opposes vaccine certificates on the grounds that they further sideline marginalized groups and strain the relationship between public health and the public it serves.

VS
by Max Binks-Collier

Peter Jüni, the scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, argues that vaccine certificates are key to managing the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping society open.

Debate
Posted: Nov 8, 2021

Are vaccine passports ethical?

Two distinguished ethicists share their differing perspectives on the ethics of requiring people to provide proof of full vaccination to access everyday venues and services.

by Max Binks-Collier

Ethicist Kerry Bowman says that vaccine certificates give him pause because they restrict people's movement, are divisive, and likely further disadvantage the marginalized – all while providing a benefit whose overall impact is hard to gauge.

VS
by Max Binks-Collier

Ethicist Arthur Schafer argues that vaccine certificates are a clearly ethical means of protecting the vulnerable, the unvaccinated, and our health-care system, thereby allowing us to return to something resembling our pre-pandemic way of life.

Series
Posted: Apr 6, 2021

Dispatches

Our editor-in-chief, Seema Marwaha, is keeping a regular log of what she is seeing, thinking and feeling as she tends to COVID-19 patients while more virulent and contagious variants of the coronavirus stress our hospitals.

by Seema Marwaha

Instead of pots and pans, all I hear now is the deafening silence in response to calls for paid sick leave and vaccines for essential workers.

by Seema Marwaha

It is so incredibly obvious to us on the wards who is struggling for help. I am angry, sad, and disappointed that their needs and safety seem to invisible to people in power.

Discussion
Posted: Mar 8, 2021

Women’s Health

International Women's Day is both a celebration of how far we've come and a reminder of how far we have to go when it comes to women's health. Displayed here are a few pieces from the archives that highlight issues women face today regarding their health.

Comment and response
Posted: Mar 4, 2021

Are drug-pricing changes helping or harming Canadians?

An article published on Feb. 2 argues that the PMPRB, a federal regulatory agency, must push ahead with reforms to the pricing of pharmaceutical drugs, despite pressure from Big Pharma.

A critical reply instead argues that the pricing changes will ultimately harm Canadians.

by Danyaal Raza ... ...

If the government is serious about ensuring access to prescription drugs and vaccines to all, it must stand up to pressure from Big Pharma on pricing reforms.

VS
by Jason Field

Canadian patients, scientists and health systems are paying the price for this failed policy experiment, which is not what our country needs at this critical moment.

Debate
Posted: Jul 23, 2020

Nationalizing drug manufacturing: A public necessity or a waste of money?

Be it resolved that the government must take over the manufacture of critical care drugs to prevent shortages.

by Saad Ahmed

This pandemic, like the Spanish flu at the height of the Progressive era, is a chance for a burst of creativity in policy-making and a commitment to building new institutions. 

VS
by Ahsan Irfan

The issue of drug shortages is a critical one and deserves a sober, evidence-based policy discussion by governments and experts. Generic drug manufacturing should not be nationalized for three reasons.

Discussion
Posted: Jan 26, 2021

Long-term care reform during COVID-19

Ontario's long-term care system is in need of reform. Over the last few months, our contributors have flagged major issues with the current models of care and highlighted the disastrous consequences to residents during COVID-19. They have also proposed novel, logical solutions to the problems. Here is a selection of pieces that approach this topic from a variety of vantage points.

by A group of very concerned physicians, researchers and advocates Concerned researchers and experts from CoVaRR-Net

We are a group of physicians, researchers and advocates who have come together to express our grave concern for the safety and well-being of Ontarians who reside in long-term care (LTC) homes.

by Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown makes the compelling case that the staggering loss of life seen within long-term care homes during the first wave was in part the product of an economic regime that values the profits of shareholders over the lives of the vulnerable.

by Kaleigh Alkenbrack

COVID-19 has exposed huge issues in Ontario's LTC homes. It's time we reimagine LTC entirely. Let's start by surveying the other LTC models already out there.

Complex Debate
Posted: Jan 14, 2021

The MAiD Debate

Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) has been legal in Canada since June 17, 2016. There was heated debate before legalization and it continues today over expanding MAiD to vulnerable groups, such as youth and those with mental illnesses and disabilities. Because it is not as simple as being for or against, we've organized some compelling arguments that sit on both sides of the spectrum.

Those who support or consider expanding MAiD
VS
Those who oppose or consider limitations on MAiD
Timeline
by Meera Mahendiran

Parliament is looking into offering MAiD to people whose only underlying condition is a mental illness. But this might be premature. After all, shouldn't we first improve mental health care in Canada?

by Ralph Lewis

Depression biases a person’s outlook, but bias is not the same as mental incompetence. Doctors must balance protecting patients in vulnerable mental states from exercising poor judgment against respecting their autonomy.