Nationally known health law and bioethics scholar to speak at WMed

contact: Mark Schwerin
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. Rebecca Dresser.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A nationally renowned health law and bioethics scholar will speak this month as part of the Western Michigan University Center for the Study of Ethics in Society's Spring 2017 Lecture Series.

Dr. Rebecca Dresser, the Daniel Noyes Kirby Professor of Law and professor of ethics in medicine at the Washington University St. Louis School of Law, will speak at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus Auditorium of the WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. Her free presentation is titled "Does Everyone Have a Duty to Volunteer for Research?" The event will begin with hors d'oeuvres at 5:30 p.m. Those wishing to attend must register in advance by emailing no later than March 15.

The discussion

Dresser will discuss how some ethicists and researchers say that members of the public have a duty to participate in research. But mandating research participation would be a major departure from the traditional view of informed consent.

It would also impose heavy burdens on seriously ill patients, something Dresser learned herself as a cancer patient. She maintains that the personal perspectives of patients and research subjects should be part of the debate over the duty to participate in research.


Since 1983, Dresser has taught medical and law students about legal and ethical issues in end-of-life care, biomedical research, genetics, assisted reproduction and related topics.  She has been a member of the Washington University in St. Louis faculty since 1998. Before coming to Washington University, she taught at Baylor College of Medicine and Case Western Reserve University. In 2003, she was a Visiting Research Scholar at the University of Tokyo, where she taught a short course in law and bioethics. She earned her law degree from Harvard Law School.

Dresser's 2016 book, "Silent Partners: Human Subjects and Research Ethics," calls for including experienced study subjects in research ethics deliberations. She is also the author of "When Science Offers Salvation: Patient Advocacy and Research Ethics" and editor of "Malignant: Medical Ethicists Confront Cancer."

Dresser has written commissioned papers for the National Academy of Sciences and National Bioethics Advisory Commission. From 2002-09, she was a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and, from 2011 to 2015, she was a member of the National Institutes of Health Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee. She also is immediate past chair of the Hastings Center Fellows Council and one of the "At Law" columnists for the Hastings Center Report.

The presentation is part of a visit arranged by the WMU Stryker School of Medicine's Program in Medical Ethics, Humanities and Law. It is co-sponsored by the West Michigan Cancer Center and the WMU Cooley Law School.

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