Addressing Ethics & Safety in Psychedelic Spaces

Mar 30 2022

By now, many of you have read the CBC news article about a psychedelic-assisted therapeutic session that took place as part of a Phase 2 clinical MDMA trial. The story includes very disturbing videos of the session, in which the therapists engage in inappropriate and unethical behaviour. 

These videos are very hard to watch. It is upsetting and deplorable that a person who sought out treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through psychedelic therapy experienced more trauma through that process.The behaviour of the therapists in this session, and the subsequent sexual abuse perpetrated by the therapist on the client, are contrary to standards of therapeutic practice with psychedelic substances.

MAPS Canada is a distinct and independent organization from MAPS US, which was the sponsor of the study in which the violations took place. MAPS Canada had no formal role in the design or oversight of this clinical trial. However, safety and ethics is a responsibility that all of us working in this field, including MAPS Canada, must take a stand on.
I want to be clear that I–and the entire group of staff, board, and volunteers of MAPS Canada–take the issue of patient safety, and the need for rigorous standards of ethics and practice in psychedelic therapy, with the utmost seriousness. On behalf of our team and our organization, MAPS Canada deplores and will not tolerate any form of abuse, mistreatment, violence, breaches of ethics, law, regulations, or standards of practice in our own organization or one in which we partner or for whom we fundraise.

MAPS Canada is in the process of developing policies that will make our ethical standards for the clinical trials and psychedelic therapy for which we fundraise absolutely clear, and ensure that any project or partnership we are part of in the future–whether research, fundraising, or practice–follows strict ethical guidelines that increase client, patient and participant safety and wellbeing. 

We are also working to create spaces in Canada where discussions about psychedelic safety can be had by a diverse group of stakeholders with an aim to create systems of accountability.

MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has been an effective therapy for many. There remains a lot of potential for psychedelics to heal trauma and create wellbeing. It’s of the utmost importance that MAPS Canada ensures that our organization engages with others ethically and promotes the rigorous and ethical behaviour of researchers and practitioners in the field, and encourages discussion and conversation around safety and improved practice.


Scott Bernstein
Executive Director
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Canada (MAPS Canada)

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