Robert M. Veatch, Ph.D.
Professor of Medical Ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics; Professor in the Philosophy Department at Georgetown University
Robert M. Veatch, Ph.D., is Professor of Medical Ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and a Professor in the Philosophy Department at Georgetown. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Community and Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. In addition to receiving his M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion and Society (medical ethics) from Harvard University, Dr. Veatch holds a master's degree in Pharmacology from the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. His primary research interests include transplantation ethics, ethical issues in death and dying, and issues of consent in therapy and human subjects research.
A long-time Fellow of the Hastings Center, Dr. Veatch also has served, since 1988, as a Member of the Governing Board and the Medical Advisory Committee of the Washington Regional Transplant Community, the organ procurement organization responsible for organ and tissue procurement in the Washington metropolitan area. He is a member of numerous Data Safety and Monitoring Boards and Institutional Ethics Committees.
One of the pioneers of contemporary medical ethics, Dr. Veatch served as an ethics consultant in the early legal case of Karen Ann Quinlan, the woman whose parents won the right to forgo life-support (1975-76), and testified in the case of Baby K, an anencephalic infant whose mother argued for a right of access to continued ventilatory support (1994). From 1981 to 1982, he served as a consultant to the President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical Research.
Dr. Veatch is the author or editor of numerous books and articles, including Death, Dying, and the Biological Revolution; A Theory of Medical Ethics; The Foundations of Justice; The Patient as Partner: A Theory of Human Experimentation Ethics; Cross Cultural Perspectives in Medical Ethics; Transplantation Ethics; Disrupted Dialogue: Medical Ethics and the Collapse of Physician/Humanist Connection; a number of collections of Case Studies in various areas of health care and biomedical ethics; and, recently, Patient, Heal Thyself: How the "New" Medicine Puts the Patient in Charge.
He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Creighton University (1999) and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Union University (2004). He received the National Book Award from the National Medical Writers Association for Case Studies in Medical Ethics, the Distinguished Achievement Award of the United Methodist Association (2002), the Research Career Achievement Award from Georgetown University (2005), and the Lifetime Achievement Award, American Society of Bioethics and Humanities (2008). In 2008, he delivered the prestigious Gifford Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, speaking on "Hippocratic, Religious and Secular Medical Ethics: The Points of Conflict."
Highlighted Publication: Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics: The Points of Conflict
Where should physicians get their ethics? Professional codes such as the Hippocratic Oath claim moral authority for those in a particular field, yet according to medical ethicist Robert Veatch, these codes have little or nothing to do with how members of a guild should understand morality or make ethical decisions. While the Hippocratic Oath continues to be cited by a wide array of professional associations, scholars, and medical students, Veatch contends that the pledge is such an offensive code of ethics that it should be summarily excised from the profession. What, then, should serve as a basis for medical morality?
Building on his recent contribution to the prestigious Gifford Lectures, Veatch challenges the presumption that professional groups have the authority to declare codes of ethics for their members. To the contrary, he contends that role-specific duties must be derived from ethical norms having their foundations outside the profession, in religious and secular convictions. Further, these ethical norms must be comprehensible to lay people and patients. Veatch argues that there are some moral norms shared by most human beings that reflect a common morality, and ultimately it is these generally agreed-upon religious and secular ways of knowingâ€”thus far best exemplified by the 2005 Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rightsâ€”that should underpin the morality of all patient-professional relations in the field of medicine.
Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics is the magnum opus of one of the most distinguished medical ethicists of his generation.