Medical leaders join a smear campaign against dissenting cardiologists

From the Department of Advocacy

The Ontario Cardiovascular Societies, or OCPS, which represents cardiac experts, is leading a collective campaign to raise public awareness of Dr. Dirk Huyer. A professor at McMaster University and a leading pathologist in the province, Huyer has been facing increasing scrutiny from members of the scientific community regarding possible conflicts of interest.

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Unfortunately, the OCPS has engaged in an unprecedented exercise of advocacy, in an effort to mislead the public and squash public discourse about our data. This counterproductive tactic speaks to our fundamental commitment to advocacy and public protection of our profession, as well as broader public safety.

Since Dr. Huyer’s departure from his prestigious faculty position at McMaster University in July, 2015, the cardiovascular society has consistently taken the position that Dr. Huyer was innocent until proven guilty. We are a voluntary membership group made up of medical specialists who have applied for and benefited from Dr. Huyer’s highly qualified, dedicated and above all accomplished leadership in our field.

We’ve vigorously defended Dr. Huyer. As his former colleagues, we truly believe he’s not guilty of any wrongdoing. Our collective and long-standing advocacy positions (published in medical journals and at The O’Keefe Report) are based on the following:

The OCPS wants to have Dr. Huyer reinstated to his faculty role at McMaster as quickly as possible.

The scientific community supports Dr. Huyer and is sending a strong, unambiguous message that his reputation is damaged, while a criminal investigation against him continues.

Earlier this year, as part of our collective advocacy process, we held a public media conference. We set a number of agreed timelines, and then provided these timelines to the OCPS.

Sometime later, the OCPS stopped responding to all media inquiries, and became aggressively partisan. Our complaints received little attention for a few weeks, but then more and more journalists began to inquire about Dr. Huyer’s situation.

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Bizarrely, the OCPS then used formalized OCPS letters to inform media outlets that the committee found no wrongdoing regarding the allegation made against Dr. Huyer. In fact, the committee found that there is reason to believe that Dr. Huyer’s conduct was reasonable and up to standard.

Several months later, the OCPS has embarked on a concerted attempt to smear Dr. Huyer’s reputation. This week, the OCPS commissioned a false apology from a young journalist at CBC who initially attempted to interview Dr. Huyer on the matter. He’s now replaced the apology with this fraud, stating that “there is potential of bias within those who have supplied the research to us.”

Additionally, the OCPS, along with Maclean’s magazine, are now suing us for libel. In our longstanding court-appointed representation, we have clearly stated that if Dr. Huyer, Maclean’s or any other person were to publish false statements against him, they would be in contempt of court.

While we’ve had no formal communication with the OCPS about this matter, we respectfully urge our former colleagues to renounce and end their campaign of smear, spin and litigation. This would serve the public interest, and would strengthen the credibility of their advocacy on behalf of Dr. Huyer.

After many long years in cardiology, it’s important that society leaders like our own and the public advocate identify their issues and stand up for their goals. But there is an added incentive that comes with laying bare health professionals’ wrongdoing. The integrity of health professions is always at risk of being undermined. We must use our collective voice to advocate for those whose reputations are at stake, and the public’s right to equal protection under the law.

As a private profession, our reputation in the public eye is at risk, whether from consumers, employers, insurers or the courts. When there is an obvious omission in published reports that might call these professionals’ impartiality into question, the public is entitled to know the truth.

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J.G. Van Dinck and Dr. Jim McMurtry are researchers at McMaster University and past presidents of the Ontario Cardiovascular Societies. They are co-authors on both the The O’Keefe Report on Growing Conflicts of Interest in Cardiology and Huyer Validation: The Case for Fairness and Accountability in Cardiovascular Research.

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