Alison Thompson

Assistant Professor

Social and Ethical Dimensions of Pharmacy: the Democratization of Public Health Policy

My disciplinary background is in philosophy (applied ethics) and social science. My research to date has been focused on the public understanding of science, and on public health ethics and policy.

Health care ethics is a growing field of inquiry that has been largely focused on issues arising in clinical settings. Public health ethics, as distinct from clinical bioethics, is an emerging field of study. In addition, bioethics has only recently adopted sociological approaches to ethical inquiry, despite its inherent interdisciplinarity. This has been described as the "empirical turn" in bioethical research, but I believe sociological inquiry can contribute much more than just empirical data to bioethics. My current and proposed research focuses on the social and ethical issues in public participation in health policy-making and emergency preparedness, and on public understanding of science issues that relate to pharmacy. This research is of growing significance in a time when there is a democratic deficit in policy-making and when there is an apparent ‘crisis of trust' in public institutions and professionals in general. Illuminating how people understand science can help both to improve the policy making process and the quality of patient care. Despite the importance of this kind of research, there is a paucity of research that addresses these issues, particularly in relation to the perspectives of marginalized populations.

Overarching Research Goals and Objectives:

My goal is to bring together social theory, qualitative methodology and ethical inquiry with the goals of:

  1. Improving our understanding of lay perspectives on issues in biomedicine, and pharmacy in particular
  2. Legitimating and evaluating public participation in health policy-making and emergency response planning
  3. Improving the legitimacy of public health responses to infectious disease (including emergency preparedness) by conducting research into ethical issues that can guide decision makers and planners, with special reference to pharmaceuticals
  4. Examining the implications of goals 1-3 for social policy, public health ethics and pharmaceutical care


Selected publications:

Thompson, A. (2013) “Human Papilloma Virus, Vaccination, and Social Justice.” Public Health Ethics 6(1): 11-20.

Thompson, A., Nixon, S, Upshur R, Robertson A, Benatar S, Daar, A. (2013) Chapter: Public Health Ethics. In: Bailey T, Caulfield T, Reis NM (Eds). Public Health Law, Ethics and Policy. Third Edition. Lexis Nexis Canada.

Thompson, A., Robertson, A. (2013) “Public Health Ethics: teaching for moral imagination and moral discernment.” In: Ethics in Public Health and Health Policy: Concepts, Methods and Case Studies.  Eds: D. Strecht, I. Hirchberg, G. Marckmann. Dordrect: Springer International. pp.93-102.

Thompson, A., J. Polzer. (2012) “School-Based HPV Vaccination for Girls in Ontario.” In: Population and Public Health Ethics: Cases from Research, Policy, and Practice. Canadian Institutes of Health Research –Institute of Population and Public Health. University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics: Toronto, ON. pp.103-104.

Ramsay, J.T., Smith, P., Thompson A., O’Campo, P., Nisenbaum, R., Watson, P., Park-Wylie, L., Bryant, T., Tandon, R., and Farah, M. “Evaluating Perceptions of the Effectiveness of the Community Advisory Panel Model for Enhancing Service Delivery to Marginalized Populations.” Public Health Nursing (2012) 29(4): 302-312.

O’Malley, P., Rainford, J., Thompson, A. “Transparency during public health emergencies: from rhetoric to reality.” Bull World Health Organization. 2009; 87:614-618.

Upshur REG, Faith K, Gibson JL, Thompson AK, Tracy CS, Wilson K, Singer PA. (2007) "Ethics in an epidemic: Ethical considerations in prepared­ness planning for pandemic influenza." Health Law Review 16(1): 33-9.

Thompson, A., Faith, K., Gibson, JL and Ross Upshur. (2006) "Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: an Ethical Framework to Guide Decision-Making." BMC Medical Ethics. 7(12).

Nixon S, Upshur R, Robertson A, Benatar S, Thompson A, Daar A. Chapter: Public Health Ethics. In: Bailey T, Caulfield T, Reis NM (Eds). Public Health Law, Ethics and Policy. Lexis Nexis Canada. 2006.

Barbara Secker, Maya J Goldenberg, Barbara E Gibson, Frank Wagner, Bob Parke, Jonathan Breslin, Alison Thompson, Jonathan R Lear, Peter A Singer. (2006) "Just regionalisation: rehabilitating care for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses." BMC Medical Ethics, 7(9).

Thompson A. Commentary 2. "I'm sorry but you can't leave": Patients, physicians, and quarantine. Virtual Mentor. April 2006; 8:201-207. Available at: Accessed March 31, 2006.

Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy
University of Toronto
144 College Street
Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3M2
Tel: 416-978-8824
Fax: 416-978-8511