Eike Kluge - New fellow in the Royal Society of Canada

imageFrom access to abortion to the ethics of deliberate death, bioethicist and philosopher Eike-Henner Kluge has been at the forefront of some of today’s most important medical debates.

Kluge has written 13 books and authored 90 journal articles.

This isn’t the first time Kluge has been recognized by the Royal Society of Canada—in 2007 he was awarded its Abbyann Lynch Medal in Bioethics. Despite recogntion with Canada’s highest academic honours, Kluge, who describes his work as at “the interface of theory and practice,” says he is most “happy” about his contributions to the public sphere.

Kluge was the first expert witness in medical ethics recognized by Canadian courts.

Kluge’s current work focuses on biomedical health information ethics, which includes electronic patient records. He is the author of the International Medical Informatics Association’s Code of Ethics. Kluge says he sees his scholarly research as groundwork for larger issues.

“There has to be a social return somewhere,” he says.

In 1989, Kluge helped establish the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) department of ethics and legal affairs. As its first director, he was asked in 1991 to draft an analysis for a Senate committee about Bill C-43, a proposed new law that would have restricted women’s access to abortion. The House of Commons had already passed the bill, introduced by the Mulroney government, and it had passed two Senate readings. But Kluge saw problems with the legislation.

“[The bill] was seriously flawed ethically,” Kluge said. “My presentation, on behalf of the CMA, swayed two votes.”

A tie vote resulted in the committee, which meant that the Senate did not pass the new proposed abortion law. “This is why there is no law that governs abortions in Canada,” Kluge says. “It is a simply a choice between the woman and the physician.”

Kluge is known for his work on another contentious issue: the ethics of deliberate death, often referred to as medically assisted dying. His books The Practice of Death and The Ethics of Deliberate Death compelled North Saanich resident Sue Rodriguez to contact Kluge. He became an ethics adviser to Rodriquez, whose Supreme Court case in 1993 was the first to challenge section 241(b) of the Criminal Code.

Rodriquez’s case ultimately failed, but in 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Carter v. Canada that parts of the Criminal Code would need to change to satisfy the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The federal government passed a new law in 2016 allowing medical assistance in dying.