Abstract: Rare diseases, defined as having a prevalence inferior to 1/2000, are poorly understood scientifically and medically. Appropriate diagnoses and treatments are scarce, adding to the burden of living with chronic medical conditions. The moral significance of rare disease experiences is often overlooked in qualitative studies conducted with adults living with rare diseases. The concept of morally problematic situations arising from pragmatist ethics shows promise in understanding these experiences. The objectives of this study were to (1) acquire an in-depth understanding of morally problematic situations experienced by adults living with rare diseases in the province of Québec and (2) to develop an integrative model of the concept of morally problematic situations. To this end, an online survey targeting this population was developed through a participatory action research project. Respondents provided 90 long testimonies on the most important morally problematic situations they faced, often in healthcare settings. An integrative model was developed based on various qualitative analyses of these testimonies and relevant literature. The integrative model showcases that morally problematic situations have causes (i.e., contextual and relational factors, personal factors, jeopardized valuations), have affective repercussions (i.e., emotions and feelings, internal tensions), prompt action (i.e., through empowerment strategies leading to the evolution of situations), and elicit outcomes (i.e., factual consequences, residual emotions and feelings, positive or negative resolutions). In sum, this study advances understanding of the moral experiences of adults living with rare diseases while proposing a comprehensive conceptual tool to guide future empirical bioethics research on moral experiences.

Keywords: Community-based participatory research; Ethics; Pragmatist ethics; Qualitative research; Rare diseases; Surveys and questionnaires.


Quintal Ariane, Hotte Élissa, Hébert Caroline, Carreau Isabelle, Grenier Annie-Danielle, Berthiaume Yves, Racine Eric. Understanding rare disease experiences through the concept of morally problematic situations. HEC Forum, 2023: 1572-8498. DOI: 10.1007/s10730-023-09511-4.