The Israeli head of the World Medical Association (WMA) has apologized, after his Canadian colleagues accused him of plagiarizing a speech.
The remarks by Dr. Leonid Eidelman, the newly installed president of the WMA, at a conference in Iceland earlier this month, resulted in the Canadian delegation walking out of the meeting, followed by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) quitting the world body in protest.
The CMA called Eidelman’s inaugural speech to the WMA “a serious ethical breach.”
Parts of Eidelman’s remarks about physician burnout and an overburdened health-care system were “plagiarized word for word” from those of Chris Simpson’s inaugural presidential address to the CMA in 2014, the Canadian umbrella group alleged in a statement.
“Multiple other parts of the speech were also copied from various websites, blogs and news articles, without appropriate attribution to the authors,” the CMA added.
The day after Eidelman’s speech, the Canadian delegation urged the WMA to remove the Israeli doctor as head of the organization. The motion was voted down.
In response, the Canadians walked out of the conference and quit the WMA.
The CMA will “seek other ways to contribute to the global health discussions,” it said.
The WMA “has failed to uphold its own standards,” CMA president Gigi Osler said. The CMA “cannot, in all good conscience, continue to be a member of such an organization.”
In its statement, the WMA said: “We very much regret Canada’s decision. Delegates from the Canadian Medical Association have been valuable participants in WMA affairs for many years. We hope that in time they will return to the association and we will welcome that day.”
The global body said it accepted an apology from Eidelman.
Eidelman provided an apology and explanation exclusively to The CJN.
I was totally unaware if any English phrases were taken from other sources. And I am really sorry.
– Leonid Eidelman
He said his speech was written “from many available sources,” and that he worked on it “for many months,” after reviewing the literature in journals, websites and court cases.
The talk was based on a “cornerstone” case in Israel’s Supreme Court about trust between a patient and a doctor, “and the idea was incorporated in my speech,” he said.
His remarks were originally written in Hebrew and translated with help from English speechwriters, he noted.
“I was totally unaware if any English phrases were taken from other sources. And I am really sorry.”
Eidelman, an intensive care specialist and anesthesiologist who once headed the Israeli Medical Association (IMA), added that everything he said at the WMA conference “reflects my views and beliefs in what I advocate and struggle for years in Israel and outside.”
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted an unnamed official from the Israeli Medical Association as saying that the dispute is connected to “the poor state of ties” between the IMA and the CMA, “especially over euthanasia.”
The IMA is against euthanasia. According to a 2014 position paper, the CMA supports the right of members – within the bounds of legislation – to follow their own conscience about whether to provide medical aid in dying.
The IMA official quoted by Haaretz called the imbroglio “another sorry attempt by the CMA to promote an ongoing agenda in which they are asking that physicians be allowed to end life (or) put humans to death – an agenda to which the IMA is vehemently opposed.”
The source was quoted as saying that Canada was the only WMA member country to demand that Edelman to step down as president.
As of press time, the CMA did not respond to The CJN’s requests to comment on the claims made in the Haaretz article.