Canadian Medical Association leaves international group after president plagiarizes past president’s speech

The address was supposed to be a triumphant inaugural speech.

On Friday, Leonid Eidelman, the incoming president of the World Medical Association (WMA), made up of representatives from national medical associations, stood up in front of the group’s members in Reykjavik, Iceland, and told them it was a great honor to become their leader.

The trouble was, his speech had lifted passages from various sources — including remarks one of his predecessors had given in 2014. The following morning, members of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) — including Chris Simpson, who had delivered the original 2014 speech — made a motion for Eidelman to resign. When that failed, the CMA said it was leaving the WMA.

CMA president Gigi Osler said in a statement:

As an organization that holds itself as the arbiter of medical ethics at the global level, the WMA has failed to uphold its own standards. The CMA cannot, in all good conscience, continue to be a member of such an organization. We will now turn our attention and energy to other ways we can participate in important international initiatives.

The CMA sent us a document noting the plagiarized passages, which we’ve recreated here. In addition to Simpson’s speech, Eidelman’s remarks took passages from a press release from MIT and from a telemedicine company’s site, among others.

Eidelman, head of the anesthesiology department at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, Israel, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the WMA told CTV News that

Eidelman was not aware his speech was plagiarized because he used speech writers.

Nigel Duncan said Eidelman apologized at the general assembly, and acknowledges that part of his speech was taken from Simpson.

The CMA has clashed in the past with the WMA on whether doctors should practice euthanasia. BioEdge, drawing on a post from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, reports that the Canadian group tried to introduce a resolution that would have changed the WMA’s position opposing the practice, but withdrew it. A CMA spokesperson tells Retraction Watch that the decision to withdraw from the WMA was not related to this disagreement, but only to Eidelman’s plagiarism.

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3 thoughts on “Canadian Medical Association leaves international group after president plagiarizes past president’s speech”

  1. Dr Eidelman’s speech was pretty brief – 1475 words according to the published text. The response that he used a speechwriter is another obfuscation.

  2. While the episode should be *terribly* embarrassing for the incoming president, the occasion of a plagiarized inaugural speech does not rise to a level on par with the important ethical and world health issues that this organization wrestles with. For God’s sake, people hate listening to speeches and that fact warrants the presenter putting as little effort into it as possible. The speechwriters should be fired, yes, but the Canadian organization’s #outrage theatre is just as embarrassing as the incident itself. Use the episode as an example of what not to do and focus on the important stuff. (full disclosure: all of the words in this post have been used before, including any misspelling).

  3. If you can’t trust a person or organization with little stuff, I don’t think you can trust them with big stuff either. People with integrity have integrity even in small matters. And if no one wants to listen to a speech, surely the solution is not to give one?

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