Every judge has to make tough decisions and Former Chief Justice Herb Laycraft is no exception.
In 1994, Laycraft became a community volunteer with the Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board. The committee is responsible for reviewing research proposals involving human subjects by the University of Calgary's Faculties of Kinesiology, Medicine and Nursing and the Calgary Health Region.
On Thu., Jan. 24, Laycraft was honoured by the Office of Bioethics for his seven-year contribution to the committee.
"Research ethics, like everything else in this world, are constantly changing," said Director of the Bioethics Office Dr. Ian Mitchell. "Community reps can represent what people in the community think. What [do they think] would be reasonable risks? What kind of risks would the community tolerate? We need those kinds of things."
In addition to a community perspective, Laycraft also brings his expertise as a legal veteran.
"He's kind of a special case community volunteer," said John Grant, a Kinesiology Ph.D. student and the Graduate Representative on the CHREB. "He is a representative of society as a whole, but [he also has] experience in law, as a judge and a lawyer. He wears two hats."
Dr. Chris Triggle, Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Medicine agrees that Laycraft brings a valuable perspective to the table.
"His years finely honing his analytical skills have really added to the ethics review process," he said.
For his part, Laycraft enjoys the new challenges the board offers.
"More than 50 years of my life have been in the law and with lawyers," said Laycraft. "To go into a group with 20 experts in medicine has been a mind-stretching experience."
Any researcher wishing to involve humans in their studies for any purpose must submit a proposal to the CHREB. The board discusses possible ethical issues related to the research protocol and decides to either approve or reject the project.
Although the board approves approximately 500 protocols a year, for Laycraft, one case stands out.
"[There was] a child in pediatrics at Foothills who was going to die," he said. "The doctor involved consulted with a doctor in Boston about a drug that had shown some promise. The doctor got approval from us to use it. Now the child is back at school."