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Carolyn McLeod


  • Ethics

  • Applied Ethics (esp. bioethics)

  • Feminist Philosophy



Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Western University

I am Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Western. My academic life began at Queen’s University, where I received both a BA and an MA in philosophy. After Queen’s, I went to Dalhousie University to get a PhD and work with Susan Sherwin. The PhD ended in 1999 and a postdoctoral fellowship started abruptly in the same year. My postdoctoral work, funded mainly by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, took place at the Bioethics Center at the University of Minnesota and also here in Philosophy at Western. I became a faculty member at Western in 2002 and have been here ever since, except for two brief stints at the University of Toronto: one as a Lupina New Faculty Fellow in the Comparative Program on Health and Society at the Munk Centre for International Studies (now the Munk School of Global Affairs), and another as a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Ethics. I am a past Co-coordinator of FAB, the International Network on feminist approaches to bioethics. I am also a founder and editorial board member of FAB’s journal: the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, or IJFAB. In recognition for my scholarly contributions and contributions to Canadian public life, I was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2021.

I am a past Co-coordinator of FAB, the International Network on feminist approaches to bioethics. I am also a founder and editorial board member of FAB’s journal: the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, or IJFAB.

My research is both theoretical and practical. Some of it concerns how to understand moral concepts such as trust, autonomy, and conscience, while other projects focus on pressing issues in public policy. I have a particular interest in policy matters that deal with the creation or dissolution of families with children. For example, I’ve published work on the provision and use of medically assisted reproduction, on parental licensing or vetting, on conscientious objections by health care professionals to provide reproductive services (e.g., abortions), and on reproductive justice for marginalized social groups.

I’ve been directly involved in policy-making and public debate in Canada on topics that concern my research, including the right of health care professionals to make conscientious objections, public funding for in vitro fertilization, and improvements to our adoption systems.

My training in feminist philosophy informs all of my research, teaching, and policy efforts. I’m deeply committed to bringing a feminist lens to the subjects I study and to mentoring the next generation of feminist philosophers and bioethicists.


McLeod, C. Conscience in Reproductive Health Care: Prioritizing Patient Interests. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Baylis, F. and C. McLeod, eds. Family-Making: Contemporary Ethical Challenges. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014.

McLeod, C. Self-Trust and Reproductive Autonomy. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2002.

Articles or Chapters

Demir-Doğuoğlu, H. and C. McLeod. “Towards a Feminist Theory of Distrust.” In The Moral Psychology of Trust. Ed. M. Alfano, D. Collins, and I. V. Jovanović. London: Lexington Books, 2023. Pp. 125-143.

Stewart, H., E. Cichocki, and C. McLeod. “A Perfect Storm for Epistemic Injustice: Algorithmic Targeting and Sorting on Social Media,” Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 8(3/4), 2022: Article 8.

McLeod, C. “The Right to Reproduce.” In the Routledge Handbook of Feminist Bioethics. Ed. W. Rogers, S. Carter, V. Entwistle, C. Mills, J. Leach Scully. New York: Routledge, 2022. Pp. 451-462.

McLeod, C. and E. Ryman. “Trust, Autonomy, and the Fiduciary Relationship.” In Fiduciaries and Trust: Ethics, Politics, Economics, and Law. Ed. P. B. Miller and M. Harding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. Pp. 74-86.

McLeod, C. “Trust,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta, revised 2020; originally published 2006, URL =

McLeod, C., and A. Botterell. “Parental Licensing and Discrimination.” In the Routledge Handbook on the Philosophy of Childhood and Children. Ed. G. Calder, J. De Wispelaere, and A. Gheaus. New York: Routledge, 2018. pp. 202-212.

 McLeod, C. “The Medical Nonnecessity of In Vitro Fertilization,” IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 10(1), 2017: 78-102.

Botterell, A. and C. McLeod. “Licensing Parents in International Contract Pregnancies,” Journal of Applied Philosophy 33(2), 2016: 178-96.

Botterell, A. and C. McLeod. “Can a Right to Reproduce Justify the Status Quo on Parental Licensing?” In Permissible Progeny. Ed. R. Vernon, S. Hannan, and S. Brennan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. pp. 184-207.

McLeod, C. and C. Fitzgerald. “Conscientious Refusal and Access to Abortion and Contraception.” In the Routledge Companion to Bioethics. Ed. J. Arras, E. Fenton, and R. Kukla. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015. pp. 343-356.

Shaw, J., J. Downie, and C. McLeod. “Moving Forward With a Clear Conscience: A Model Conscientious Objection Policy for Canadian Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons,” Health Law Review 21(3), 2014: 28-32.

McLeod, C. “Harm or Mere Inconvenience? Denying Women Emergency Contraception,” Hypatia 25(1), 2010: 11-30.

Baylis, F. and C. McLeod. “The Stem Cell Debate Continues: The Buying and Selling of Eggs for Research,” Journal of Medical Ethics 33(12), 2007: 726-731.

Faculty Research Domains

Rotman Institute faculty members are listed below by shared research areas. Visit individual member profiles to learn more.