Professor McDonald retired in December, 2010. He continues to remain active in research, graduate supervision and ethics consulting.

A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

An Ethical Framework for Making Meso-Level Health Care Allocation Policy Decisions

Michael McDonald was the founding Director of the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics (1990-2002). He received an Honours BA in Philosophy from the University of Toronto and an MA and PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. From 1969 to 1990, he was a member of the Philosophy Department at the University of Waterloo.

In 2009, the Canadian Bioethics Society gave its Lifetime Achievement Award to McDonald for his “outstanding contribution to the Healthcare Ethics in Canada”. Complete In 2006, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada presented McDonald with the designation of Honorary Certified General Accountant for his contribution to professional ethics education for the Association.

McDonald also headed the creation of two websites with Dr. Holly Longstaff and Nina Preto: is an educational resource dedicated to helping Canadian stem cell researchers navigate ethical issues in their work; is a website designed for gathering information that will promote better communication amongst and between researchers, research administrators, research participants, and research ethics committees.

McDonald’s work is located at the intersection of theory and practice in health care, business and professional life, politics, and other aspects of everyday life. He has written on such topics as the ethics of research involving human subjects, cross-cultural ethics, the rights of communities, professional and corporate responsibility, and the place of applied ethics in contemporary society. He has played an important leadership role in the development of a significant Canadian research capacity in applied ethics.

McDonald is currently a member of the following committees:

  • Member, Canadian Blood Services Bioethics Advisory Committee 2016-2018
  • Chair, Canadian Council on Animal Care, Animal Data Working Group, 2016-1018
  • Member, Governance Committee of the Ontario Cancer Research Ethics Board (OCREB), Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, 2008-2017

For over twenty years Dr. McDonald has been involved in the study and formation of ethical standards for research involving humans and its governance. Along with colleagues Dr. Susan Cox and Dr. Anne Townsend (University of Exeter), McDonald is now looking at how research ethics boards (REBs) form beliefs about the experiences of research participants. These beliefs ground judgements REBs make about consent processes and risks/benefits in research. This is part of a long standing concern for evidence-based protection of research participants.

McDonald is also working on a paper on participatory engagement of patients in health research whether as co-researchers, sponsors, advisors, etc. Another area of current writing is on the ethical acceptability of paid plasma donation.

I am not currently teaching any courses at UBC. I am however available for working with graduate students and giving guest lectures on topics in my areas of expertise.

Areas of interest include:

  • Bioethics
  • Business Ethics
  • Professional ethics including accounting ethics (see below), health care practitioners and researchers, engineers, and scientists
  • Collective and individual rights
  • Ethical theory

McDonald is currently supervising several graduate students.  He also is Program Director of the “Training Program in Health Ethics Research & Policy” (see list of research projects above).

Ethical issues in the treatment of humans subjects involved in health research are addressed by McDonald in a series of recent publications. In The Governance of Health Research Involving Human Subjects, McDonald and his co-authors provide the first in-depth description and analysis of Canadian public and private sector oversight of health research involving human subjects. This study was prepared for the Law Commission of Canada, Ottawa and published in October 2000. This study is available in either English or French and copies can be obtained directly from the Commission. In the sections of the study authored by McDonald (Ethics and Governance), he provides in Section A an overview of the project as well as its scope and limitations. In Section B, he offers a conceptual analysis of ethics in relation to governance, a description of the current governance processes and an account of the factors shaping the context of Canadian governance for the area. In the final section of the study (Section F) McDonald presents five major conclusions and recommendations essential to the reform of Canadian governance for health research involving human subjects.

In The Governance of Health Research Involving Human Subjects: Reflections on Ethical Policy for Scientific Research (Transactions Royal Society of Canada Special Issue: Science and Ethics, Series VI, Volume XI, pp. 49-68), McDonald provides an overview of the work done by his research team for the Law Commission of Canada and suggests that political divisions over appropriate governance have been exacerbated by a lack of good ethical analysis and qualitative research. In Canadian Governance of Health Research Involving Human Subjects: Is Anybody Minding the Store? (Health Law Journal, Vol.9, 2001, 1-21), McDonald strongly criticizes the current state of inaction with respect to Canadian protection for human subjects and argues for an evidence-based approach to the protection of research subjects.
In transplantation ethics, McDonald has published work as member of interdisciplinary team from the British Columbia Transplant Society on living anonymous donation (LAD) – the donation of a kidney by a donor to a “stranger” someone who is unrelated biologically or emotionally. In The living anonymous kidney donor: Lunatic or saint? (American Journal of Transplantation, in press), evidence is offered that a significant number of potential LADs are likely to be psychologically stable altruistic donors. Earlier work on public receptivity to LAD is reported in Living Anonymous Kidney Donation: What Does the Public Think? Transplantation (in press, June 2001).
Cross-cultural dimensions of the concept of health and their relevance to health care are tracked by McDonald in Health, Health Care and Culture: Diverse Meanings, Shared Agendaswhich is a chapter in A Cross-Cultural Dialogue on Health Care Ethics (H. Coward and P. Ratanakul (Eds.) Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1998).
McDonald’s work in business and professional ethics includes publications on accounting ethics, most notably the Ethics Reading Handbook which is used by the Certified General Accountants of Canada as a basic part of their distance education program for CGA status. He has also written on ethics for foresters: First Principles for Professional Foresters. Peter C. List, Ed. Environmental Ethics and Forestry: A Reader (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000; pp.128-144).
McDonald’s earlier work in political philosophy is represented by a variety of publications. The paper Aboriginal Rights has been reprinted in anthologies by Cragg — Contemporary Moral Issues (McGraw Hill Ryerson) and by Soifer — Ethical Issues Perspectives for Canadians (Broadview Press). The argument that ends justifying means in politics is discussed and rejected by McDonald in Hands: Clean and Tied, Dirty and Bloody which is published in Cruelty and Deception: The Controversy Over Dirty Hands In Politics, David Shugarman and Paul Rynard, Eds. Broadview Press, 1999.
Other Publications, many co-authored by former students:
  • Zubin Master, Michael McDonald, Danielle Paciulli, Holly Longstaff, “A Primer on Ethics Education for Stem Cell and Biomedical Scientists”, Current Stem Cell Reports, Forthcoming. 
  • Stuart G. Nicholls, Tavis B. Hayes, Jamie C. Brehaut, Michael McDonald. Charles Wejer, Raphael Saginur, Dean Ferguson, “A Scoping Reviw of Empirical Research Relating to Quality and Effectiveness of Ethics Review”, PLOS One, July 30, 2015, COI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133639
  • Timothy Caulfield, Kalina Kamenova, Ubaka Ogbogu, Amy Zarzeczny, Jay Baltz, ShellyBenjaminy, Paul A Cassar, Marianne Clark, Rosario Isasi, Bartha Knoppers, Lori Knowles, Gregory Korbutt, James V Lavery, Geoffrey P Lomax, Zubin Master, Michael McDonald, Nina Preto, Maeghan Toews, “Research Ethics and Stem Cells: Is It Time to Rethink Current Approaches to Oversight?” EMBO Reports, 01 December 2014, 1223-1230.
  • Rosario Isasi, Peter W. Andrews,Jay M. Baltz, Annelien L. Bredenoord, Paul Burton, Ing-Ming Chiu, 
Sara Chandros Hull,  Ji-Won Jung, Andreas Kurtz,  Geoffrey Lomax,  Tenneille Ludwig, Michael McDonald,  
Clive Morris,  Huck Hui Ng,  Heather Rooke,  Alka Sharma,  Glyn N. Stacey,  Clare Williams,   Fanyi Zeng, 
and Bartha Maria Knoppers, Identifiability and Privacy in Pluripotent Stem Cell Research, Cell Stem Cell 14, April 3, 2014.
  • Ubaka OgboguSarah BurninghamAdam OllenbergerKathryn CalderLi DuKhaled El EmamRobyn Hyde-LayRosario IsasiYann JolyIan KerrBradley MalinMichael McDonaldSteven PenneyGayle PiatDenis-Claude RoyJeremy SugarmanSuzanne VercauterenGriet VerhennemanLori West & Timothy Caulfield, “Policy recommendations for addressing privacy challenges associated with cell-based research and interventions”, BMC Medical Ethics 201415:7
  • Cox, S. M., & McDonald, M., Ethics is for human subjects too: Participant perspectives on responsibility in health research, Social Science & Medicine (2013),
  • Anne Townsend, Paul Adam, Linda Li, Michael McDonald, Catherine Backman, “Exploring eHealth Ethics and Multi-Morbidity: an Interview and Focus Group Study of Patient and Health Care Provider Views and Experiences of Using Digital Media for Health Purposes”, JMIR Research Protocols 2013, vol. 2, issue 1.
  • McDonald, Michael and Longstaff, Holly. (2013). Spinning a Stem Cell Ethics Web. Journal of Accountability in Research: Policies and Quality Assurance, 20, 2, pp. 107-126.
  • Michael McDonald, Susan Cox, Anne Townsend, “Towards Human Research Protection that is Evidence-based and Participant Centered”, The Future of Human Subjects Research Regulation, Glen Cohen and Holly Lynch, Eds. MIT Press, 2014.
  • Holly Longstaff, Michael McDonald, Jennifer Bailey, “Communication Risks and Benefits About Ethically Controversial Topics: the Case of Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cells”, Stem Cell Reviews and Reports, 5,2, 89-95.
  • Michael McDonald and Christina Preto, “Conflict of Interest in Health Research”, The Sage Book of Health Care Ethics: Core and Emerging Issues, Sage Handbook, Ruth Chadwick, Hank ten Have, and Eric Meslin Editors, Sage Publications, 2011, pp. 326-341
  • James A. Anderson, Brenda Swatzky-Girling, Michael McDonald, Daryl Pullman, Raphael Saginur, Heather A. Sampson, and Donald J. Willison, “Research Ethics, Broadly Writ”, Health Law Review 19, 3, 2011, 12-24.
  • Michael McDonald, Daryl Pullman, James Anderson, Nina Preto and Heather Sampson, “Research Ethics in 2020: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats”, Health Law Review 19, 3, 2011, 36-55.
  • Jonathan Kimmelman, Michael McDonald, and Denise Avard, “A Guide to the Perplexed: How to Navigate Conflicting Research Ethics Policies”, Health Law Review 19, 3, 2011, 56-62.
  • Zubin Master, Michael McDonald, Bryn Williams-Jones, “Promoting Research on Research Integrity in Canada”, Accountability in Research 19, 1-6, 2010.
  • Michael McDonald, Susan Cox. “Moving Towards Evidence-Based Human Research Protection”, Journal of Academic Ethics, 7, 1-2, 2009.
  • Timothy Caulfield,  Amy Zarzeczny, Jennifer McCormick, Tania Bubela, Christine Chritchley, Edna Einsiedel, Jacques Galipeau, Shawn Harmon, Michael Huynh, Insoo Hyun, Judy Illes, Rosario Isasi, Yann Joly, Graeme Laurie, Geoff Lomax, Holly Longstaff, Michael McDonald, Charles Murdoch, Ubaka Ogbogu, Jason Owen-Smith, Shaun Pattinson, Shainur Premji, Barbara von Tigerstrom, David E. Winickoff. “The Stem Cell Research Environment: A Patchwork of Patchworks”. Nature Reports forthcoming (shorter version of paper); Stem Cell Reviews and Reports (2009)82-88.
  • Holly Longstaff, Catherine A. Schuppli, Nina Preto, Darquise Lafrenière and Michael McDonald, “Scientists’ perspectives on the ethical issues of stem cell research”, Stem Cell Reviews and Reports (20095, 89-95.
  • Michael McDonald, “Introduction”, Special Issue Canadian Network for the Governance of Ethical Health Research Involving Humans: Evidence, Accountability and Practice, Health Law Review, 17(2) 2009, pp. 5-11
  • Michael McDonald, “From Code to Policy Statement: Creating Canadian Policy for Ethical Research Involving Humans”, Special Issue Canadian Network for the Governance of Ethical Health Research Involving Humans: Evidence, Accountability and Practice, Health Law Review, 17(2) 2009, Vol. 17 Issue 2/3, pp. 12-25.
  • Michael McDonald, Anne Townsend, Susan M. Cox, Natasha Damiano Patterson, and Darquise Lafrenière, “Trust in Health Research Relations: Accounts of Human Subjects,” Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics (2008), 3, 4 pp. 35–47
  • Brian Evoy, Michael McDonald, James Frankish. “Civil Society? What Deliberative Democrats Can Tell Advocate about How to Build the Health Promotion Agenda”, Canadian Journal of Public Health 99, 4 (July-August 2008) 321-323.
  • Tim Caulfield, Ubaka Ogbogu, Erin Nelson, Edna Einsiedel; Bartha Knoppers, Michael McDonald, Ph.D., Fern Brunger and 21 others, “Stem Cell Research Ethics: Consensus Statement on Emerging Issues”, Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Canada, October 2007, 843-847
  • Cox, Susan M. and Michael McDonald. Research on Research Ethics: Must the Ethics Researcher Become an Ethics Cop, Consultant or Conduit? Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics (JERHRE).
  • Michael McDonald & Bryn Williams-Jones, “Governance and Stem Cells: Towards the Clinic” Health Law Review (2008) 16(2) 27-40.
  • Brian D. Westerberg, Sipke Pijl, Michael McDonald, “Ethical Considerations in Resource Allocation in a Cochlear Implant Program”, The Journal of Otolaryngology  (2008) April, 37, 2, 250-5.
  • Carol A. Morgan and Michael McDonald, “Ethical Dilemmas in Veterinary Medicine”, Veterinary Clinics Small Animal Practice 37 (2007) 165-179.
  • Michael McDonald, “Dedication and Introduction”, Special Issue: Canadian Governance for Health Research Involving Humans, Health Law Review, (2005) Vol. 13, No. 2-3, 5-12.
  • Catherine Schuppli and Michael McDonald, “A Comparison between the Governance System of Research Involving Animals with the System for Humans: Lessons for Reform of Research Involving Humans”, Health Law Review, Vol. 13, Nos. 1-2 (2005) Special Issue on Governance, 97-106
  • Brenda Beagan and Michael McDonald, “Evidence-Based Practice of Ethics Review”, Health Law Review, Special Issue on Governance, Vol. 13, Nos. 1-2 (2005) 62-68
  • James V. Lavery, Michael McDonald, Eric M. Meslin, Research Ethics Across the 49th Parallel: The potential value of Pilot Testing “equivalent protections”  in Canadian Research Institutions, Health Law Review, Special Issue on Governance, Vol. 13, Nos. 1-2 (2005) 86-96
  • Anita Molzahn, Rosalie Starzomski, Michael McDonald, Chloe O’Loughlin, “Chinese Canadian Beliefs Toward Organ Donation,” Qualitative Health Research 15(1) 82-98 (January 2005).
  • Anita Molzahn, Michael McDonald, Rosalie Starzomski, Chloe O’Loughlin, “Coast Salish Beliefs Towards Transplantation”. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research 36(4), 110-128 (April 2004).
  • Michael McDonald, “Dignity at the End of Our Days: Personal, Familial and Cultural Location, Journal of Palliative Care 20:3, (2004) 163-171.
  • Timothy Caulfield, Trudo Lemmens, Douglas Kinsella, and Michael McDonald. “Research Ethics and the Role of the Professional Bodies: A View From Canada” The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 32(2) 2004
  • M. McDonald, “Medical Research and Ethnic minorities”, Postgraduate Medical Journal, 2003; 70: 125-126. Invited editorial
  • Cathy Schuppli, David Fraser and Michael McDonald. “Expanding the Three Rs to Meet New Challenges in Humane Animal Experimentation”. Alternatives To Laboratory Animals, (2004) 32, 525-532
  • M. McDonald and E. Meslin, Research Ethics as Social Policy: Some Lessons from Experiences in Canada and the United States. The Tocqueville Review/La Revue Tocqueville, 2003. xxiv (2) pp. 61-85.
  • Henderson, A. J. Z., Landolt, M. A., McDonald, M. F., Landsberg, D. N., Barrable, W. M., Soos, J. G., Gourlay, W., Allison, C. J. (in press). The living anonymous kidney donor: Lunatic or saint? American Journal of Transplantation.
  • Chris Macdonald, Michael McDonald, and Wayne Norman “Charitable Conflicts of Interest,” Journal of Business Ethics 39 (Nos. 1-2) 67-74.
  • “Canadian Governance of Health Research Involving Human Subjects: Is Anybody Minding the Store?” Health Law Journal, Vol.9, 2001, 1-21.
  • The Governance of Health Research Involving Human Subjects. Law Commission of Canada, Ottawa, October 2000 (online). Available in either English or French, xxiv + 363 pages.
  • Landolt, M.A., Henderson, A.J.Z., Barrable, W.M., Greenwood, S.D., McDonald, M.F., Soos, J.G., Landsberg, D.N. “Living Anonymous Kidney Donation: What Does the Public Think?” Transplantation. (June 2001).
  • “The Governance of Health Research Involving Human Subjects: Reflections on Ethical Policy for Scientific Research”, Transactions Royal Society of Canada Special Issue: Science and Ethics, Series VI, Volume XI, pp. 49-68.
  • “First Principles for Professional Foresters.” “First Principles for Professional Foresters”. Peter C. List, Ed. Environmental Ethics and Forestry: A Reader, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000; pp.128-144.
  • “Hands: Clean and Tied, Dirty and Bloody”, Cruelty and Deception: The Controversy Over Dirty Hands In Politics, David Shugarman and Paul Rynard, Eds. Broadview Press, 1999.
  • “Health, Health Care and Culture: Diverse Meanings, Shared Agendas”, A Cross-Cultural Dialogue on Health Care Ethics, Eds. H. Coward and P. Ratanakul, Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 1999, pp. 92-112.
  • “Business Ethics in Canada: Integration and Interdisciplinarity”, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 16 (6), April 1997, pp. 635-43
  • “Prescriptions from Religious and Secular Ethics for Breaking the Impoverishment/Environmental Degradation Cycle”, Population, Consumption, and the Environment: Religious and Secular Perspectives. H. Coward, rd. State University of New York Press, 1995, pp. 195-216
  • “An Inquiry Into the Ethics of Retroactive Environmental Legislation: the Case of British Columbia’s Bill 26″, University of B.C. Law Review, 29, 1995, pp. 63-86
  • Ethics Readings Handbook, Certified General Accountants of Canada, Vancouver, 1995, 1997 (24,000 CGA students in Canada, Asia and the Caribbean are using this text and anthology.)
  • “Opportunities for Research in Business and Professional Ethics”, Journal of Business Ethics, 11: 41 55, 1992
  • “Liberalism, Community, and Culture”, University of Toronto Law Journal, 42, 1992, pp. 113 131
  • “Should Communities Have Rights? Reflections on Liberal Individualism”, Human Rights in Cross- Cultural Perspectives, A.A. An-Na’im (Ed), University of Pennsylvania Press, Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights, Philadelphia, 1992, pp 133-161; and in Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, IV (2), July 1991
  • “Questions about Collective Rights”, Language and the State: The Law and Politics of Identity, ed. David Schniederman, Montreal, Les editions Yvon Blais, 1991, pp. 3-25
  • Michael McDonald (Principal Investigator), Marie Helene Parizeau (Senior Researcher), Daryl Pullman (Research Assistant), Towards a Canadian Research Strategy for Applied Ethics: Report for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, published by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities, 151 Slater Street, Suite 404, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H3 ISBN 0 920031 07 02, November 1988. Vers une strategie canadienne de recherche en Éthique appliquée, French edition of report, April 1993
  • “Respect for Individuals Versus Respect for Groups: Public Aid for Confessional Schools in the United States and Canada”, Philosophical Dimensions of the Constitution, Diane Meyers and Kenneth Kipnis, editors, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1988, pp. 180 195
  • “Indian Status: Colonialism or Sexism”, Canadian Community Law Journal, 1986, pp. 23 48
  • “Justice in Hard Times”, Social Justice, Bowling Green Studies in Applied Philosophy, Bowling Green, 1982, pp. 34 43. Reprinted in Contemporary Moral Issues, W. Cragg, ed., McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1st edition 1983, 2nd edition 1987, 3rd edition 1992, pp. 560-70
  • “Aboriginal Rights”, Contemporary Issues in Political Philosophy, Eds. W.R. Shea and J. King Farlow, New York, 1976, pp. 27 48. Reprinted in Contemporary Moral Issues, ed. W. Cragg, McGraw Hill Ryerson, first edition 1983, second edition 1987, third edition 1991, pp. 269-286 and in Ethical Issues Perspectives for Canadians, ed. E. Soifer, Broadview Press, Peterborough, Ont., first edition 1992, second edition 1997, pp. 598-613