SAFS Letter to Dr. Paul E. Garfinkel, President and Chief Executive Officer and Dr. David Goldbloom, Physician-in-Chief

April 23, 2001

Dr. David Goldbloom,
Physician-in-Chief, and
Dr. Paul Garfinkel,
Chief Executive Officer Centre for Addiction and Medical Research
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario

 Dear Doctors Goldbloom and Garfinkel:

The Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS) is a national organization whose goals are to safeguard freedom in teaching, research, and scholarship and to uphold the merit principle as the basis of academic decision-making regarding students and faculty. For further information, please visit our website at

This letter is prompted by recent media reports concerning the withdrawal of an offer of employment made to Professor David Healy of the University of Wales. According to reports in the Toronto Globe and Mail of April 14 and April 16, 2001, the Provost of the University of Toronto made Dr. Healy "a formal, written offer of a combined faculty and clinical position in May of 2000," CAMH having begun "courting" Dr. Healy in July of the previous year. At the time of the formal offer of employment the University reportedly "hired a lawyer to help Dr. Healy immigrate. Nevertheless, the offer was rescinded shortly after Dr. Healy gave a lecture at the CAMH on November 30, 2000, in which "he criticized drug companies for avoiding experiments that may show that there are problems with their drugs, and for not publishing unfavourable results." Dr. Healy specifically mentioned the drug Prozac, manufactured by Eli Lilly, which the CAMH lists at its website as its "lead" donor.

While the CAMH is reported as stating that its reasons for rescinding the offer to Dr. Healy are "confidential," it has nevertheless indicated both (a) that it would not withdraw an offer of employment owing to concerns about fund-raising and (b) that Dr. Healy's November 2000 lecture provided evidence that his approach was not "compatible" with the Centre's "development goals." While we recognize that there may be no contradiction here, since "development" need not mean "fund-raising" (although the term is frequently used in that sense today), the facts are nevertheless these:

(1) in the course of a recruitment process lasting some ten months the CAMH presumably carried out an extensive and thorough examination of Dr. Healy's academic/scientific qualifications and references before finally making him a formal offer of employment in May 2000;

(2) the only subsequent event on the public record that could have had a bearing on estimates of Dr. Healy's strictly academic qualifications was his lecture of November 30, 2000, in which he was openly critical of the practices of pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac;

(3) Eli Lilly, a major CAMH donor, recently withdrew a donation to an American centre after it published articles, including one by Dr. Healy, critical of Prozac;

(4) within a week of his having delivered his public lecture of November 30, 2000, Dr. Healy's offer of employment was rescinded;

(5) it is a very rare occurrence for a researcher's performance in a single public lecture to be such as to reverse all previous estimates of his suitability for an academic/clinical position;

(6) Dr. Healy's public lecture is not on record as having been a fiasco; on the contrary, a community psychiatrist, writing a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail (April 17, 2000), describes the lecture as "thought-provoking and evidence-based" and as an "insightful overview of psychotropic drug treatment."

These facts raise serious concerns about the influence of private corporations upon scholarly and scientific research and about improper intrusion of non-academic considerations into hiring decisions at the University of Toronto and its affiliated teaching hospitals. While we agree that the University must respect the CAMH's autonomy as an affiliated institution, it is our understanding that those holding "combined faculty and clinical" positions at any of the affiliated teaching hospitals enjoy the same academic freedom accorded regular faculty members at the University of Toronto. If so, then the withdrawal of this offer of employment has very grave implications for all hiring decisions at affiliated hospitals of the University of Toronto and indeed at the university itself. If, in your view, our assumptions about the nature of the affiliation agreement between CAMH and the University of Toronto are mistaken, we ask that you refer us to the relevant sections of the agreement.

Wherever feasible it is our practice to contact the parties directly involved before commenting publicly on the academic freedom aspects of a case of this nature. We look forward therefore to receiving a fuller account of those actions that might be interpreted as an abridgement of Dr. Healy's academic freedom and, by extension, of that of all staff cross-appointed between the University of Toronto and its affiliated teaching hospitals, if not of all faculty at the University of Toronto itself. We are copying this letter to Dr. Healy, who may wish to provide his own perspective, and the relevant senior administrators at the University of Toronto, who may also wish to provide comment.


Clive Seligman

c.c.  Dr. Robert Birgeneau, President, University of Toronto
        Dr. David Naylor, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
        Dr. David Healy, University of Wales

Return to Issues/Cases Page