Mary Ellen Macdonald

Mary Ellen Macdonald, PhD
Associate Professor, Oral Health and Society, Faculty of Dentistry
Program Head - Research, Programs in Pediatric Palliative Care, Montreal Children's Hospital
mary.macdonald [at] (Email)

Mary Ellen Macdonald is a medical anthropologist with postdoctoral training in Pediatric Palliative Care. Her current research interests focus on bereavement, Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID), and the compassionate communities movement. Recently, she has been working with colleagues on an ethnographic study of end-of-life care in Inuit communities in Nunavik, Northern Quebec, an ethical analysis of MAID legislation for mature minors, and a sociocultural study of memorial tattoos. She is also currently involved in research on the oral health of vulnerable populations, health professions education research, and research involving cultural aspects of health and illness with Indigenous communities in Canada.

Mary Ellen continues to work with Professor David Clark’s End of Life Studies team at University of Glasgow on multiple projects: - The World Map of Palliative Care: Mary Ellen is assisting on their work mapping children’s palliative care globally. - She has also been involved in their new online certificate program in End-of-life studies.  She has hosted two scholars from Glasgow University through a McGill-Glasgow International Mobility Fund, Early Career Mobility Award program. These grants allow Glasgow faculty to spend time with Mary Ellen’s team at McGill (Dr. Naomi Richards, Spring 2018; Dr. Gitte Koksvik, Spring 2019) Mary Ellen also continues to work on Indigenous palliative care issues. She worked with a team in Nunavik, the report from which is currently being used by the Quebec MSSS to advance care in the north. Further, the James Bay Cree nation has received funding from Health Canada to advance a similar program based upon this report; she works with them as a consultant.

Mary Ellen also is working with a team from the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement to advance the concept of grief literacy. Together they have submitted a manuscript and presented at an international conference (Australia, October 2019). Mary Ellen is working with a colleague from Brazil, Dr. Alexandre Fávero Bulgarelli from Preventive and Social Dentistry Program in the Faculty of Dentistry at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, on death education for dental students. Together they have submitted a narrative literature review manuscript to a journal, and are hosting a symposium during the 2020 International Association of Dental Research (Washington, DC). Also with this colleague, Mary Ellen has contributed to a MOOC focused on palliative care and dentistry.

Funded projects: Memorial tattoos: Inking the bond. SSHRC, Insight Development Grant. $71,093, 2017-2019. PI: S Cadell; Co-Is: D Davidson, M Lambert, ME Macdonald, M O'Gorman [Note, an extension of this project has recently been submitted to SSHRC] Grief in the era of medical assistance in dying: A narrative study of bereavement experiences. Réseau québécois de recherche en soins palliatifs + Réseau Québécois sur le suicide, les troubles de fin de vie de l’humeur et les troubles associés. $20,000, 2019-2020. PI: M Montreuil, D Wright; CO-Is: S Cadell, ME Macdonald. [Note, an extension of this project has recently been submitted to CIHR] End of Life Care for Cree Patients from Eeyou Istchee, Quebec. Health Canada’s Health Care Policy Contribution Program. $400,000, 2019-2022, PI: J Torrie; Co-Is: multiple, including ME Macdonald Community-based bereavement support for Inuit living in Montreal and Nunavik. SSHRC, Insight Development Grants. $70,000, 2018-2020 PI: SR Hordyk Co-Is: S Fraser, ME Macdonald, L Nadeau.

Selected Publications

Macdonald ME. The denial of grief: Reflections from a decade of anthropological research on parental bereavement and child death. In MH Jacobsen & A Petersen (Eds.), Exploring Grief: Towards a Sociology of Sorrow (pp. 125-149). 2019. London: Routledge.

Martinez, AM, Castiglione, S, Dupuis, F, Legault, A, Proulx, MC, Carnevale, FA (2019). Having therapeutic conversations with fathers grieving the death of a child. Omega – Journal of Death and Dying, 2019 Jan 28:30222819825916 [Epub ahead of print].

Santos RP, Macdonald ME, Carnevale F. A scoping review of the moral experiences of children with medical complexity in Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem (in press).

Keboa MT, Beaudin A, Cyr J, Decoste J, Power F, Hovey R, LaFrance L, Ouellet D, Wiseman M, Macdonald ME. Dentistry and nursing working together to improve oral health care in a long-term care facility. Geriatric Nursing (online first)

Belanger E, Towers A, Tradounsky G, Wright D, Macdonald ME. Of dilemmas and tensions: A qualitative study of palliative care physicians’ positions regarding voluntary active euthanasia in Quebec, Canada. Journal of Medical Ethics. J Med Ethics. 2019 Jan;45(1):48-53.

Wright DK, Brajtman S, Macdonald ME. Relational ethics of delirium care: Findings from a hospice ethnography. Nursing Inquiry, 2018, 25:e12234.

Chan LS, Macdonald ME, Carnevale FA, Cohen SR. 'I'm only dealing with the acute issues': How medical ward 'busyness' constrains care of the dying. Health 2017, 22:451-68.

Hordyk, SR, Macdonald ME, Brassard P. End-of-life care in Nunavik, Quebec: Inuit experiences, current realities, and ways forward. Journal of Palliative Medicine 2017,20(6):647-655.

Hordyk SR, Macdonald ME, Brassard P. Inuit interpreters engaged in end-of-life care in Nunavik, Northern Quebec. Journal of Circumpolar Health 2017, 76(1): 1291868.

Bracken-Roche D, Bell E, Macdonald ME, Racine E. The concept of 'vulnerability' in research ethics: An in-depth analysis of policies and guidelines. Health Research Policy and Systems 2017,15(1):8.

Bélanger E, Rodríguez C, Groleau D; Légaré F, Macdonald ME, Marchand R. Patient participation in palliative care decisions: An ethnographic discourse analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being 2016;11:32438

Affleck W, Fiasse G, Macdonald ME. Narrative, life-trauma, and self-interpretation: Using Ricœur’s Petite éthique to understand the moral experience of bereaved fathers. Narrative Inquiry, 2016;26(1):108-129.

Karsoho H, Fishman J, Wright DK, Macdonald ME. Suffering and medicalization at the end of life: The case of physician-assisted dying. Social Science & Medicine 2016;170:188-196.

Karsoho H, Fishman J, Wright DK, Macdonald ME. Constructing Physician-Assisted Dying: The politics of evidence from permissive jurisdictions in Carter v. Canada. Mortality 2016,1:1-15.

Stevenson M, Achille M, Liben S, Proulx, MC, Humbert N, Petti A, Macdonald ME, Cohen SR. Understanding how bereaved parents cope with their grief in order to inform the services provided to them. Qualitative Health Research 2017; 27(5): 649-664.

Spicer S, Macdonald ME, Vadeboncoeur C, Davies D, Siden H. Introducing a lexicon of terms for pediatric palliative care. Paediatrics and Child Health 2015,20(3):155-156.

Wright DK, Brajtman S, Cragg B, Macdonald ME. Delirium as letting go: An ethnographic analysis of hospice care and family moral experience. Palliative Medicine 2015,29(10):959-966.

Wright DK, Fishman JR, Sandham S, Karsoho H, Macdonald ME. Physicians and euthanasia: a Canadian print-media analysis of physician perspectives. CMAJ Open 2015,3(2):E134-E139.

Macdonald ME, Kennedy K, Molls S, Pineda C, Mitchell LM, Stephenson PH, Cadell S. Excluding parental grief: A critical discourse analysis of bereavement accommodation in Canadian labour standards. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation 2015,50(3):511-26.

Carnevale FA, Campbell A, Collin-Vézina D, Macdonald ME. Interdisciplinary studies of childhood ethics: Developing a new field of inquiry. Children & Society 2015 29:511-523.

Allen D, Badro V, Denyer-Willis L, Macdonald ME, Paré A, Hutchinson T, Barré T, Beauchemin R, Bocti H, Broadbent A, Cohen SR. Fragmented care and whole-person illness: Decision-making for people with chronic, end-stage kidney disease. Chronic Illness 2015,11(1):44-55.

Bélanger E, Rodríguez C, Groleau D; Légaré F, Macdonald ME, Marchand R. Initiating decision-making exchanges in palliative care: An ethnographic discourse analysis. BMC Palliative Care 2014,13(1):63.

Wright DK, Brajtman S, Macdonald ME. A relational ethical approach to end-of-life delirium. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2014,48(2):191-198.


Back to top