Quick Links

Seminars & Events

Controversy and dialogue about conscientious objection in Clinical care

Held Monday, April 14, 2014 Jeanne-Timmins amphitheatre, MNI. The event provided an opportunity to raise awareness and stimulate reflection of the controversial aspects of conscientious objection and how to manage such challenges. The format was engaging with a short presentation on basic concepts of conscientious objection by Gry Wester followed by 2 case study role-plays and panel discussions. Daniel Weinstock provided wrap-up reflections on the morning discussion.

We share Dr Gry Wester’s presentation slides  …conscientiousobjectionoverviewgrywesterapril2014.pdf

The conference objective is to raise awareness of the controversial aspects of conscientious objection and to engage clinicians in dialogue on how to approach and manage such challenges.


Managing morality at the bedside: the frustrations of virtue

Dr. Eugene Bereza, Biomedical Ethics Unit

Conscientious objection: basic concepts

Dr. Gry Wester, Institute for Health and Social Policy

A case of pediatric pitfalls

Dr. Stephen Liben, Director, Pediatric Palliative Care Program, Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Panel: Dr. Carolyn Ells, Biomedical Ethics Unit; Dr. Carolyn McLeod, University of Western Ontario; Lucie Wade, Jewish General Hospital


All lectures take place at 3647 Peel, Don Bates Seminar Room 101 until noted otherwise.



Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 12:00pm - 1:30PM

Charles Meredith House, 1130 Pine Avenue West 

Room 101 (wheelchair accessible)

Jonas-Sébastien Beaudry

Boulton Research and Teaching Fellow in the Faculty of Law (2013-2014)

“Beyond (Models of) Disability?”

The strategy of developing an ontology or models of disability as a prior step to settling ethical issues regarding disabilities is highly problematic, for two reasons. First, key definitional aspects of disability are normative, and cannot helpfully be made value-neutral. Second, if we accept that the contested concept of disability is value-laden, it is far from obvious that there are definitive reasons for opting for an interpretation of the concept over another. I conclude that the concept of disability is better left ethically open-ended or broad enough to encompass the examination of various ethical issues (such as oppression, minority rights or physical discomfort). Alternatively, the concept of disability could be altogether abandoned in order to focus on specific issues without being hindered by debates about the nature of disability. Only political costs, rather than conceptual considerations internal to the models, could be weighed against such a conclusion.

Jonas-Sébastien Beaudry, Boulton Research and Teaching Fellow in the Faculty of Law for 2013-2014, is interested in social justice, disability studies, and human rights. He received his DPhil from Oxford University. He continued his work on disability ethics as a Visiting Adjunct Professor in the Philosophy Department at San Francisco State University, and this topic is the subject of his teaching at McGill.


Friday, March 14, 2014 at 12:00pm - 1:30PM

Daniele Fanelli

Visiting Professor at the Université de Montréal

Beyond the funding effect - the many facets of bias and misconduct

Public discourse on scientific bias and fraud is dominated by concerns for the distorting effects of financial interests within biomedical research. Old philosophies and new evidence, however, suggest that the picture is broader and more complex. I will present and discuss data that points to other sources of scientific misconduct and research bias, the prevalence of which is likely to vary across disciplines and countries.


Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 13:30 - 15:00PM


Erik Parens

Senior Research Scholar

On What Neuroscience Can -- and Can't -- Teach Us about the Self

In 1994, Francis Crick announced his "Astonishing Hypothesis," that human beings are "no more than a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." In my talk, I will explain what I take to be deeply right - and deeply wrong - about that claim. Further, I will suggest that if we can get better at remembering the respects in which his claim is right and wrong, we can perhaps become more humane toward others and humbler about ourselves.

FALL 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012 at 1:00PM - 2:30PM

Jim Lavery, MSc, PhD
Research Scientist, Centre for Research on Inner City Health, and Centre for Global Health Research, St. Michael's Hospital, Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto

Why should we engage communities in global health research?

In vaccine trials, HIV prevention trials, the introduction of controversial new health technologies, such as genetically modified mosquitoes for the control of vector-borne diseases, and other types of global health research, it has become widely accepted that engaging the host communities matters ethically. Yet there are no clear accounts of why. In this seminar, I will draw on our recent and current work to propose an explanation. The proposal, which reflects an interests-based account of research ethics, also has implications for how "community" should be understood in the context of research, and therefore who should be engaged, and how. Using several case examples from own work, I will then briefly explore the possible implications of this analysis for research policy, research ethics guidance, and research practices in global health.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 1:00PM - 2:30PM

Gail Geller, Sc.D., M.H.S.
Professor, Johns Hopkins University
Department of Medicine and Berman Institute of Bioethics

The Impact of Uncertainty in Medical Training and Practice

Gail Geller, Sc.D., M.H.S. is a Professor in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University with joint appointments in the Department of Pediatrics and the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Departments of Health, Behavior & Society and Health Policy & Management. She is a core faculty member in the Berman Institute of Bioethics (BI) and served as Co-Deputy Director of the BI’s Greenwall Fellowship Program in Bioethics & Health Policy. She also oversees the “social, behavioral and ethical” strands in the undergraduate medical curriculum. Gail received her B.S. in human development & family studies from Cornell University and her doctorate from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health with concentrations in bioethics and social & behavioral science.

Dr. Geller’s research interests have focused on clinician-patient communication and informed consent under conditions of uncertainty, professionalism and humanism in medical education, cross-cultural variation in concepts of health and disease, and clinician suffering and moral distress. She has explored these interests in a range of health care contexts in which uncertainty looms large, including genetics and genomics, complementary & alternative medicine, and palliative care.

Dr. Geller has served on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Bioethics & Humanities, and the IOM Committee on the Review of Omics-Based Tests for Predicting Patient Outcomes in Clinical Trials. She was a Consultant to the Ethics Working Group of the National Children’s Study, the Informed Consent Working Group of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing (SACGT), and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. She is a Fellow of the Hastings Center.


Friday, February 10, 2012 at 11:00AM - 12:30PM

Roberto Abadie
Research Associate Biomedical Ethics Unit

The Professional Guinea Pig: Big Pharma and the Risky World of Human Subjects

Roberto Abadie will discuss his latest book, The Professional Guinea Pig, where he documents the emergence of the professional research subject in Phase I clinical trials testing the safety of drugs in development. Until the mid-1970s Phase I trials were conducted on prisoners. After that practice was outlawed, the pharmaceutical industry needed a replacement population and began to aggressively recruit healthy, paid subjects, some of whom came to depend on the income, earning their living by continuously taking part in these trials. Drawing on ethnographic research among self-identified “professional guinea pigs” in Philadelphia, Abadie examines their experiences and views on the conduct of the trials and the risks they assume by participating.


Friday, March 9, 2012 at 11:00AM - 12:30PM

Kristin Voigt
Post-doctoral Fellow Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health & Biomedical Ethics Unit McGill University

Shame, stigma and the ethics of health promotion

Tackling the stigmatisation and negative perception of various health conditions and health behaviours is an important goal in many areas of public health. More recently, however, public health initiatives have begun to rely on strategies that aim to ‘denormalise’ certain behaviours, i.e. to make them appear less common and less desirable. The rationale underlying this approach is that the social unacceptability of particular behaviours can be a strong motivator for behaviour change. That this approach risks stigmatising those who engage in the targeted behaviours has been recognised in the debate but public health experts disagree on whether denormalisation necessarily leads to stigma and on whether stigmatisation could be an acceptable cost in the pursuit of population health. This paper aims to assess whether denormalisation should be considered part of the public health ‘armoury’ and, if so, what principles or considerations should guide its use.

Past seminar speakers have included:

Nancy M.P. King
Program in Bioethics, Health, and Society, Wake Forest University
Therapeutic Overestimation in Early-Phase Research
April 25, 2008*

Charles Weijer
Philosophy, University of Western Ontario
"Clinical Equipoise: Then and Now"
May 12, 2008

Alex John London
Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University
"Research Subjects on the Auction Block: Some Problems for Procedural Approaches to Justice"
November 21, 2008

Robert D. Truog
Pediatrics, Harvard University
"Death, Brain Death, and the Ethics of Organ Transplantation"
December 3, 2008

Daniel Weinstock
Philosophy, Université de Montréal
"How Political Philosophers Should Think About Health"
January 24, 2009

Irving Kirsch, PhD
"The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the antidepressant Myth"
October 14, 2009

Avi Craimer, BA, MA, PhD candidate
"The Disability Paradox and Standards of Well Being"
November 6, 2009

* Sponsored by a gift from the McGill Medical School Class of 1970


Book Symposium on Shlomi Segall's Health Luck and Justice, Princeton University Press, 2009
Daniel Weinstock, Université de Montréal
Nicholas King, McGill University
Shlomi Segall, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"Equality of Opportunity, for Health"
Shlomi Segall (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Sept. 17, 2010

Scott Kim, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Co-Director of the Center for Bioethics, Decision and Social Sciences in Medicine - University of Michigan
"What to do about Therapeutic Orientation of Research Subjects"

Margrit Shildrick
Reader in Gender Studies School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work Queen's University Belfast
"The phenomenology of hybrid bodies: rethinking bioethics and organ transplantation"
January 7,2011

Nancy M.P. King, JD,
Professor, Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy Wake Forest University School of Medicine Co-Director, WFU Center for Bioethics, Health, and Society
"First in Human Trials and the Research-Treatment Distinction: Bright Line, Blur, or Bust?"
May 12, 2011