The Pragmatic Health Ethics Research Unit was launched in 2006 under the leadership of Dr. Eric Racine, PhD to sustain the longest history of Canadian bioethics activities, based at the IRCM since 1976.



The Pragmatic Health Ethics Research Unit is an interdisciplinary research group based at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM). We are committed to developing new theories, concepts, and methodologies to sustain innovative, evidence-informed, and collaborative responses 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.


Our achievements include:


  • 208 peer-reviewed papers published in leading journals
  • 268 abstracts presented at a broad range of scientific meetings
  • +150 issues of our bi-monthly newsletter, Brainstorm, disseminated worldwide
  • 158 graduate students, interns, visiting scholars, and postdoctoral fellows trained at our Unit
  • Hosting several national and international workshops and conferences



Pragmatism is a distinctive theoretical and methodological approach to healthcare ethics. It fosters the flourishing of individuals and emphasizes an understanding of moral problems within the contexts of people’s lives. It boasts a particular interest in bridging theory and practice and finds its intellectual roots in leading American philosophers and scientists associated with this school of thought.

A significant portion of our work is ingrained in a modern pragmatist theoretical framework. This framework stresses the importance of understanding problematic situations (e.g., clinical, educational, scientific) from the experiential point of view of stakeholders. Such knowledge can empower individuals by collaboratively engaging them in the resolution of the problems with which they are confronted through deliberative and evidence-informed processes.

 To learn more about pragmatism, click here.


The Pragmatic Health Ethics Unit is committed to training a new generation of students and researchers in health ethics through the conduct of collaborative interdisciplinary research in Montreal. Our postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, staff members, and interns go on to obtain highly competitive employment in the healthcare field, pursue professional degrees, return to their professional practice, or secure academic positions. To learn more about our team, please visit our Team page.

Our research

The Pragmatic Health Ethics Research Unit investigates a range of ethically and socially problematic situations encountered in healthcare with the help of theories and methodologies inspired by philosophical pragmatism, as well as with 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, such as qualitative interviews, focus groups, surveys, content analysis, and media studies 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 innovate concept modeling methods. Previously (2006-2018), the Unit focused on ethical and social aspects of neuroscience research and related clinical specialties. Our research program now explores other contexts such as metabolic diseases (e.g., diabetes), rare diseases (e.g., primary immunodeficiencies) as well as problems encountered in the neurosciences broadly speaking. To learn more, please visit our Projects page.