Mary Rice, who was last week fired from her job of head of public
communication at the Medical Research Council, is suing her former
employer for wrongful dismissal.
Rice was suspended from the Medical Research Council (MRC) in August
after she told the Sunday Times she opposed a decision by the council’s
Neurochemical Pathology Unit to accept a pounds 147,000 donation from
British American Tobacco.
The money was to be used to fund a research project studying the effects
of nicotine in treating age-related disorders like Alzheimer’s.
The 49-year-old, who joined the MRC seven years ago, heard last week
that she had been dismissed for ‘gross misconduct’ and is now taking MRC
to an industrial tribunal.
Rice has just begun a six- month contract to work as a press officer at
the British Medical Association (BMA).
The MRC is now looking for a replacement head of public communication.
A statement from MRC reads: ‘...the central issue is one of confidence
and trust between employer and employee.’ It continues: ‘...She stated
her own personal opinion and made no attempt to explain the MRC
perspective. This act made her position as the Council’s head of public
The fax concludes: ‘Mary’s dismissal in these circumstances has no
bearing on her right, or that of any other employee, to express their
opinions or to offer advice, internally, on corporate policy and
BMA chairman Dr Sandy Macara said: ‘Rice should have been praised for
her actions, not vilified.’