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Hastings Center News

Dan Brock Remembered

The Hastings Center and colleagues mourn the loss of Dan W. Brock, philosopher and bioethicist, on September 26, at the age  of 83. He was the Frances Glessner Lee Professor Emeritus of Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School and founding Director of the Harvard Program in Ethics and Health. He was Hastings Center fellow, a former member of the Hastings board of directors,  and the recipient of The Hastings Center’s 2018 Henry Knowles Beecher Award for lifetime achievement in bioethics.

“Dan Brock deeply shaped our field and U.S. health policy,” said Mildred Solomon, president of The Hastings Center. “He was a seminal thinker, active nationally and internationally in both ethics and health policy. His experience in policy caused him to reflect on what he saw as the tension between the work of an academic philosopher and the work of a philosopher who participates in policymaking. He brought clarity to many problems in health care, including physician aid in dying, surrogate decision making, health care priority setting, genetic enhancement and organ allocation.  Brock gave reflections on his career in videorecorded talk with Solomon when he received the lifetime achievement award.

Brock served as a staff philosopher on the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine from 1981 to 1982 and was a member of the ethics working group of the President Bill Clinton’s task force on national health reform in 1993.  He has been a consultant to numerous international and national bodies, including the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization. He is also a Fellow and a former member of the board of directors at The Hastings Center.

Dr. Brock received a BA in economics from Cornell University and a PhD in philosophy from Columbia University. He is the author of Deciding for Others: The Ethics of Surrogate Decision-Making (with Allen E. Buchanan, 1989), Life and Death: Philosophical Essays in Biomedical Ethics (1993), and From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice (with Allen E. Buchanan, Norman Daniels, and Daniel Wikler, 2000).

“Dan was a special mentor to me and so many other clinician-bioethicists,” said Robert D. Truog, the Frances Glessner Lee Professor of Medical Ethics, Anaesthesia, & Pediatrics and director of the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, who is a Hastings Center fellow. “He taught us how to bring philosophical rigor to the ethical problems we were seeing at the bedside, helping to elevate the entire field of bioethics to a new level of academic respect and professional engagement.”

“Dan was a pioneer and intellectual leader in bioethics, author of works of lasting influence and value on a great many of the field’s most significant issues, ranging from end-of-life decision-making to ethical dimensions of cost-effectiveness analysis and beyond,” said Dan Wikler, a colleague of Dan who is also a Hastings Center fellow. “Dan, who braved multiple health problems in recent years, was esteemed and beloved by an international community of co-workers, trainees and friends.”