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Carolyn Ells



Carolyn Ells


Carolyn [dot] ells [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email)

Academic background

Carolyn Ells is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, based at the Biomedical Ethics Unit. She also has appointments as Associate Member of the Division of Experimental Medicine, Associate Member of the Department of Family Medicine, and Associate Researcher at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research. She holds a PhD in Philosophy with a concentration in biomedical ethics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


Dr. Ells’ current research activities are directed to 2 foci:

1)      Patient-centered care theory and its implementation in practice

Her current research collaborations involve this theme. See for example, The Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network (SPIN), and a partnership initiative on Tranforming Mental Health Services.

One outcome of her collaboration with Dr Matthew Hunt is a Patient Centered Care Ethics Analysis Model for Rehabilitation (PCEAM-R), which is available in English and French. PC_ethics_analysis_model_Rehab_Final v2 Jan_2014.pdf      Modele pour la prise de decision ethique_finalV2 jan 2014.pdf

2)      Research ethics review process and policy

Her publications and policy analyses in the area of research ethics review have been used by policy makers in recommending revisions to normative texts, including the Declaration of Helsinki by the World Medical Association; the Tri-Council Policy Statement for Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans by the Social Sciences and Humanities Working Committee of the Panel on Research Ethics; and the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Consent Task Force.  


Dr Ells teaches BIOE-680 (Bioethical Theory), a required course in the Specialization in Bioethics Master’s Program. She supervises graduate students in that program, teaches in the medical school, and provides continuing education lectures in bioethics to local health professionals.

Dr Ells co-authored a 6-module on-line research ethics tutorial targeting research ethics board members and support staff within the Quebec health and social services network.

Professional Activities

Dr Ells is an Immediate Past Co-Coordinator of the International Network of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB). She has been a member of the Advisory Board and Archivist of the same organization since 2001. She serves on the Editorial Board of The International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (IJFAB), and reviews manuscripts for several journals. She also serves on Canada's Interagency Panel on Research Ethics (PRE).


Selected Publications

1) Patient-centered care theory and its implementation in practice

Durocher E, Kinsella EA, Ells C. & Hunt M.  Contradictions in client-centred discharge planning: Through the lens of relational autonomy. The Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy 2015; Early Online 1-9. DOI: 10.3109/11038128.2015.1017531 http://informahealthcare.com/eprint/yUCcUxeBx2RgVAt7eSkV/full

Bisaillon L, Ells C. When Doctoring is not About Doctoring: An Ethical Analysis of Practices Associated with Canadian Immigration HIV Testing. Public Health Ethics. (2014) 7 (3): 287-297. First published online: October 27, 2014. DOI: 10.1093/phe/phu036 http://phe.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/3/287.full

Park MM, Zafran H, Stewart J, Salsberg J, Ells C, Rouleau S, Estein O and Valente T. Transforming mental health services: A participatory mixed methods study to promote and evaluate the implementation of recovery-oriented care. Implementation Science 9 (2014), 119. DOI:10.1186/s13012-014-0119-7 http://www.implementationscience.com/content/9/1/119

Zelkowitz P, King L, Whitley R, Tulandi T, Ells C, Feeley N, Gold I, Rosberger Z, Chan P, Bond S, Mahutte N, Ouhilal S, Holzer H. A comparison of immigrant and Canadian-born patients seeking fertility treatment. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. First published online 13 May 2014. DOI: 10.1007/s10903-014-0037-4 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10903-014-0037-4/fulltext.html

King L, Tulandi T, Whitley R, Constantinescu T, Ells C, Zelkowitz P. What's the message? A content analysis of newspaper articles about assisted reproductive technology from 2005 to 2011. Human Fertility 2014; Early Online, 1-9.

Kwakkenbos L, Jewett LR, Baron M, Bartlett SJ, Furst D, Gottesman K, Khanna D, Malcarne VL, Mayes MD, Mouthon L, Poiraudeau S, Sauve M, Nielson WR, Poole JL, Assassi S, Boutron I, Ells C, van den Ende CHM, Hudson M, Impens A, Körner A, Leite C, Costa Maia A, Mendelson C, Pope J, Steele RJ, Suarez-Almazor ME, Ahmed S, Coronado-Montoya S, Delisle VC, Gholizadeh S, Jang Y, Levis B, Milette K, Mills SD, Razykov I, Fox RS, Thombs BD. The Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network (SPIN) Cohort: protocol for a cohort multiple randomised controlled trial (cmRCT) design to support trials of psychosocial and rehabilitation interventions in a rare disease context. BMJ Open 2013;3:e003563. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013- 003563.

Hunt MR, Ells C. A Patient-Centered Care Ethics Analysis Model for Rehabilitation, American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 92:9 (2013), pp. 818-827.

Ells C, Hunt M, Chambers-Evans J. Relational Autonomy as an Essential Component of Patient-Centered Care. IJFAB. 4:2 (2011), 79-101. Relational Autonomy as an Essential Component of Patient-Centered Care [.pdf]

Hunt M, Ells C. Partners Towards Autonomy : Risky Choices and Relational Autonomy in Rehabilitation Care, Disability and Rehabilitation. 33;11 (2011), 961-967. Partners Towards Autonomy [.pdf]

Lotan G, Ells C. Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Participation in Decision Making: Ethical Considerations for Professional–Client Practice, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 48:2 (2010), 112-145. Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Participation in Decision Making [.pdf]

Lemoignan J, Ells C. ALS and Assisted ventilation: How patients decide, Palliative and Supportive Care. 8:2 (2010), 207-213. ALS and Assisted Ventilation [.pdf]

Ells C. Levels of Intervention: Communicating with more precision about planned use of critical interventions. The American Journal of Bioethics. 10:1 (2010), 78-79. Levels of Intervention [.pdf]

2)   Research ethics review process and policy

Ells C, Thombs BD. The ethics of how to manage incidental findings (Invited Commentary) CMAJ; Early Release Online, March 31, 2014, 1-2. CMAJ June 10, 2014 vol. 186 no. 9 First published March 31, 2014. DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.140136  http://www.cmaj.ca/content/186/9/655.full?sid=42236ec3-6a72-4057-bfff-4988652a2fd0

Thombs BD, Ells C, Black L. Patient-Reported Outcome Alert Monitoring. (Letter to the Editor). JAMA, 311:4 (2014), 420.

Ells C. Communicating Qualitative Research Study Designs to Research Ethics Review Boards, The Qualitative Report. 16: 3 (2011), 881-891. Communicating Qualitative Research Study Design [.pdf]

Ells C. There's No Going Outside the Lines: Ethical Considerations in the Conduct of Clinical Trials. Chapter 4 In: What You Need to Know to Conduct a Clinical Trial and How to Avoid Common Pitfalls, Craig Leonardi & Kim Papp (Program Chairpersons), an on-line educational program jointly sponsored by the Postgraduate Institute for Medicine, BioCentric, Inc., and the International Psoriasis Council, June 1, 2009. http://www.psoriasiscouncil.org/resources/publications/clinicaltiralshandbook.htm

Goodyear MDE, Eckenwiler LA, Ells C. Fresh thinking about the Declaration of Helsinki: A comprehensive approach to ethical research, BMJ (2008) 337:a2128. (Commissioned editorial) Fresh thinking about the Declaration of Helsinki [.pdf]

Eckenwiler LA, Ells C, Feinholz D, Schonfeld T. Hopes for Helsinki: reconsidering "vulnerability", Journal of Medical Ethics. 34:10 (2008), 765-766. Hopes for Helsinki [.pdf]

Eckenwiler LA, Feinholz D, Ells C, Schonfeld T. "The Declaration of Helsinki through a Feminist Lens," The International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. 1:1 (2008), 161-177. The Declaration of Helsinki through a Feminist Lens [.pdf]

Ells C, Gutfreund S. "Myths about Qualitative Research and the Tri-Council Policy Statement," The Canadian Journal of Sociology. 31:3 (2006), 361-373. Myths about Qualitative Research and the Tri-Council [.pdf]