Neurobiology and Development

Pragmatic Health Ethics

Under the direction of Eric Racine

Research Unit

The Pragmatic Health Ethics Research Unit is an interdisciplinary research group. It is committed to developing theories, concepts, and methodologies to sustain new approaches. The latter are innovative, evidence-informed, collaborative, and developed in response to ethical problems surfacing in science, medicine, and technology, as well as at the intersections of these fields. The unit evolved for its first 12 years under the name of the Neuroethics Research Unit.

The research program tackles a range of ethically and socially problematic situations encountered in healthcare. The program relies on theories and methodologies inspired by philosophical pragmatism, as well as on other theories. This approach is rather unique in its attempt to bridge empirical research (empirical ethics) with a philosophical approach that calls for methodological and theoretical innovation based on interdisciplinary work in concrete situations. Various approaches and research methods are used to understand the nature of the problematic situations faced by patients, clinicians, families, and other stakeholders.

Deliberative methods are employed to foster dialogue and mutual learning in numerous areas such as neonatal prognostication, cognitive enhancement, and person-oriented research ethics. Forthcoming developments include methods of assessing ethical outcomes and participatory interventional ethics studies. The unit is also actively engaged in conceptual work based on different forms of integrative conceptual analysis and innovative concept modeling methods. Previously (2006-2018), the unit focused on ethical and social aspects of neuroscience research and related clinical specialties (neuroethics). The research program now explores other contexts such as metabolic diseases, rare diseases as well as problems encountered in the neurosciences broadly speaking. 

Eric Racine

Research Unit Director

Eric Racine is a leading international researcher in bioethics with recognized contributions to the development of neuroethics and pragmatic ethics. He is the author of Pragmatic Neuroethics: Improving Treatment and Understanding of the Mind-Brain, published by MIT Press. Inspired by philosophical pragmatism, his research aims to bring to the forefront the lived experience of ethically problematic situations by patients and stakeholders and then to resolve them collaboratively through deliberative and evidenced-informed processes.


  • Associate Vice-President, Scientific Activities, IRCM
  • Director, Pragmatic Health Ethics Research Unit, IRCM
  • Full Research Professor, IRCM and Université de Montréal
  • Full research professor, Department of Medicine with accreditation in social and preventive medicine / bioethics, Université de Montréal
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Medicine (Division of Experimental Medicine) and Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University
  • Research Scholar, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé
  • Affiliate member, Biomedical Ethics Unit, McGill University
  • Affiliate member, National Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia
  • Board member, Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé
  • Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

Awards and honours

  • FRQ-S Research Scholars emeritus
  • FRQ-S Career award (senior)
  • FRQ-S Career award (J2)
  • FRQ-S Career award (J1)
  • CIHR New Investigator Award
  • Visiting Researcher, Centre for Advanced Studies, Munich, Germany
  • Visiting Researcher, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Visiting Researcher, Brocher Foundation, Hermance (Geneva), Switzerland

Degrees and relevant experience

  • Postdoctoral fellowship, Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University School of Medicine, California, USA (2004-2006)
  • PhD in Applied Human Sciences – Bioethics, Université de Montréal (2004)
Eric Racine
Research Unit Director
John Aspler
PhD student
Wren Boehlen
Research Assistant
Mariana Correro
Administrative Assistant
Alice Côté
Technical Assistant
Erika Fardeau
Research Assistant
Caroline Favron-Godbout
PhD Student
Amaryllis Ferrand
PhD student
Mathilde Genest
Technical Assistant
Anne-Sophie Guernon
Technical Assistant
Nicole Padley
Technical Assistant
Ariane Quintal
PhD student
Matthew Sample
Postdoctoral fellow
Abdou Simon Senghor
Postdoctoral fellow
Marianne Rochette
Research Assistant
Matthew Valiquette
Technical Assistant

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Contact information

Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM)
110, des Pins Avenue West
Montréal, Québec  H2W 1R7

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Neurobiology and Development