Carolyn Ells

Carolyn Ells


Carolyn.ells [at] (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, and the Departments of Family Medicine and Social Studies of 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 involves this theme. See for example, The Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network (SPIN), Infotility, and selected publications listed below.

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. See selected publications listed below. 


Dr Ells teaches BIOE-681 (Bioethics Practicum), a required course in the Specialization in Bioethics Master’s Program, supervises graduate students in that program, and is course director for the Medical Ethics and Health Law courses in McGill’s undergraduate medical program.

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 Chair of Canada's Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics (PRE), which advises the presidents of Canada’s 3 federal research funding agencies with independent reflection and advice on issues and policy involving ethics of research involving humans human research ethics, consistent with theTri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Humans, 2ndedition (TCPS 2).

Dr Ells is a member of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) representing the Canadian Bioethics Society, and serves on the CCAC Standards Committee.

Selected Publications

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

d'Agincourt-Canning, Lori and Ells, Carolyn (Eds). 2019. Ethical Issues in Women's Healthcare: Practice and Policy. Oxford University Press.

d'Agincourt-Canning, Lori and Ells, Carolyn. 2019. Women’s Healthcare Through a Feminist Ethics Lens, In: Ethical Issues in Women's Healthcare: Practice and Policy. d'Agincourt-Canning, Lori and Ells, Carolyn (Eds.). Oxford University Press, 1-18.

Henein, M. and Ells, C. (2019). “Towards a Patient-centered regulation of gamete donation in Canada. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 41(9): 1336-1338. 10.1016/j.jogc.2019.05.012

Siedlikowski, Sophia; Ells, Carolyn; Bartlett, Gillian. Scrutinizing screening: a critical interpretive review of primary care provider perspectives on mammography decision-making with average-risk women. Public Health Reviews. 2018;39:15

SPIN publications and presentations found here

Infotility publications and presentations found here

Ashley, Florence; Ells, Carolyn. In favour of covering ethically important cosmetic surgeries: facial feminisation surgery for transgender people. AJOB. 2018 18(12): 23-25.

Durocher, Evelyne; Elizabeth Anne Kinsella; Barbara E. Gibson; Susan Rappolt; and Carolyn Ells. Engaging older adults in discharge planning: case studies illuminating approaches adopted by family members that promote relational autonomy, Disability and Rehabilitation. (2018) DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2018.1483430

Stephen Clarke, Carolyn Ells, Brett Thombs, David Clarke. Defining Elements of Patient-centered care for therapeutic relationships: a literature review of common themes. The European Journal for Person Centered Healthcare (EJPCH). 2017;5(3) 362-72.

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

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, Carolyn and Lyster, Caroline. 2016. Research Ethics Review of Drug Trials Targeting Medical Conditions of Pregnant Women, In: Clinical Trials Involving Pregnant Women: Missed Trials (F. Baylis and A. Ballantine (Eds.), Springer, 95-118.

Calvert, Melanie; Kyte, Derek; Mercieca-Bebber, Rebecca; Slade, Anita; Chan, An-Wen; King, Madeleine T. King; and the SPIRIT-PRO Group. Guidelines for Inclusion of Patient-Reported Outcomes in Clinical Trial Protocols The SPIRIT-PRO Extension. JAMA. 2018;319(5):483-494. DOI:10.1001/jama.2017.21903

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

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]

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]


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