Public statement from the MICCAI Board - Violation of the Code of Conduct at MICCAI 2018

Thursday 26th September 2019

During the MICCAI 2018 annual conference, it was reported to the MICCAI ombudspersons that a participant acted towards another participant in a manner that violated the MICCAI 2018 Code of Conduct.

As soon as this incident was reported, a committee was formed and an investigation was conducted. It was found that the offender (male) made physical contact with the target (female) despite the target making it clear that this contact was unwanted and unwelcome. The instances of harassment took place in public during the Gala dinner and were witnessed by other attendees. The target was grabbed and pulled twice and carried a short way despite her strongly protesting. Written and oral statements from witnesses supported what was reported. Such behavior constitutes a serious violation of the code of conduct.

At the end of the investigation, a detailed report was issued by the ombudspersons and the committee. The recommendation was to impose the following conditions on the offender: 1) interactions with the target must be limited to professional events and related activities; 2) avoid any and all physical contact with the target; 3) interactions with the target and with other people at MICCAI professional and social events must be in compliance with the Code of Conduct; and 4) any retaliatory action, in any social or professional setting, against the target or any other persons will result in significant additional sanctions. Furthermore, the parties involved were instructed to not break the confidentiality of the report and the people involved, and in particular, they were not  to make any public or private reference to this matter in the future.

Following the report, the Board consulted a lawyer and external consultant to review the procedures and sanctions. The lawyer confirmed that the process was adequate. The external consultant, who is an expert in codes of conduct and cases of harassment during scientific conferences, reviewed the sanctions imposed on the offender and provided a detailed report on the process and on the sanctions.

The main recommendations of the external consultant’s report were: 1) to impose an additional and more severe sanction on the offender, and to ban the offender from the annual conference for one year, ie, the MICCAI 2019 meeting, and 2) to review the Code of Conduct and establish a process for its enforcement. The MICCAI Board voted to adopt the external recommendations in full and hired her to revise the Code of Conduct and help establishing the process, and to serve as a consultant in case of future violations. Both the target and the offender were informed and the offender was banned from attending the MICCAI 2019 annual meeting.

Counting on the responsibility and the vigilant support of all participants to MICCAI events, the MICCAI Board is committed to providing a safe and professional environment to all attendees and service providers of the MICCAI conference. The Board is making every effort to ensure that all complaints and violations are addressed in a thorough, professional matter. Details on the revised Code of Conduct, the newly appointed MICCAI safety officers (formerly called ombudspersons), and the processes for reporting and handling Code of Conduct violations will be distributed to the Society at MICCAI 2019 and at all future MICCAI conferences and events.