Nancy Berlinger

Nancy Berlinger


Research Scholar

Download CV for Nancy Berlinger

Nancy Berlinger is a Hastings Center research scholar whose work focuses on two major themes: ethical and societal challenges arising from population aging, and the role of health practitioners, systems, and policymakers in the care and well-being of migrants. These themes reflect her longstanding interests in decision-making and care concerning serious illness and near the end of life; safety and harm in health systems; and the moral dimensions of care work. She publishes, presents, and speaks to the media frequently on topics within these themes. She is the lead author of The Hastings Center’s Ethical Framework for Health Care Institutions Responding to Covid-19 and of related pandemic guidance for professionals,  organizations, and policymakers.

Nancy Berlinger’s aging-focused projects include “Dementia and the Ethics of Choosing When to Die”; “Living Alone at Home with Dementia: Ethical Considerations for Inclusion,” and “Bioethics for Aging Societies: Informing Policy and Practice.” Her current migration-focused work includes “Creating Systems of Safety for Immigrant Health” and related collaborations with clinician-investigators, and the Undocumented Patients public database and resources. She served on the Planning Committee for the 2018 National Academy of Medicine Workshop on Physician-Assisted Death. She directed the revision of The Hastings Center’s landmark Guidelines on treatment decision-making and end-of-life care and collaborated with the Society of Hospital Medicine to develop a primary palliative care pathway for serious illness communication. With colleagues at the National University of Singapore and the University of Oxford, she co-developed the open-access Singapore Bioethics Casebook. She was a 2018 resident at the Bellagio Center of the Rockefeller Foundation for a book project on migration and urbanism. She serves on the Bioethics Committee of Montefiore Medical Center (Bronx, NY) and on Montefiore’s Ethics Review Committees on hospice access for patients alone, and teaches at Lehman College, City University of New York.

Nancy Berlinger is a graduate of Smith College and received a doctorate in English literature from the University of Glasgow and a master of divinity, with a focus on ethics, from Union Theological Seminary.

Selected Covid-19 guidance, commentaries, and training tools

N. Berlinger et al. Ethical Framework for Health Care Institutions Responding to Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). The Hastings Center. March 16, 2020.

N. Berlinger et al. Responding to Covid-19 as a Regional Public Health Challenge, Preliminary Guidelines for Regional Collaboration Involving Hospitals. Supplement to Ethical Framework. The Hastings Center, April 29, 2020.

Ethics Work Group. Public Health Competence Network for COVID-19. Public Health Ethics and Covid-19:  The ethical dimensions of public health decision-making during a pandemic. April 22, 2020.

M. Gary and N. Berlinger. “Interdependent Citizens: The Ethics of Care in Pandemic Recovery.” Hastings Center Report. May-June 2020. (In press)

N. Berlinger. “Immigrants, Health Inequities, and Social Citizenship in Covid-19 Response and Recovery.” Bioethics Forum. April 23, 2020. Updated May 28, 2020.

B. Wills and N. Berlinger. “Covid-19 Update: Essential Resources on Immigrant Health.” The Hastings Center. April 22, 2020.

N. Berlinger et. al. “COVID-19: Supporting Ethical Care and Responding to Moral Distress in a Public Health Emergency.” Slide Deck Training Tool. The Hastings Center. March 24, 2020.

N. Berlinger. “COVID-19: Supporting Ethical Care and Responding to Workforce Concerns in a Public Health Emergency.” Webinar. Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Program. April 22, 2020.

Selected commentaries

Population aging, medical decision-making

“With No Dementia Cure in Sight, It’s Time for Communities to Become Dementia Friendly.” STAT News, August 14, 2019. Read here

“The Ethics of Population Aging: Precarity, Justice, and Choice.” Health Affairs Blog, June 27, 2019. Read here

Immigrant health, safety and harm in health systems

“‘Getting Creative’: From Workarounds to Sustainable Solutions for Immigrant Health Care.” Journal of Law Medicine & Ethics 47, no. 3 (2019): 409-11. Read abstract here

“More Than Just Sanctuary, Migrants Need Social Citizenship,” Aeon, August 29, 2017. Read here

Selected scholarly publications

Population aging, medical decision-making

Nancy Berlinger, Kate de Medeiros, and Mildred Z. Solomon, eds., “What Makes a Good Life in Late Life? Citizenship and Justice in Aging Societies,” Hastings Center Report 48, no. 5 (2018): special supplement. Read full text here Read Introduction here

Robert Truog, Nancy Berlinger, Rachel L. Zacharias, and Mildred Z. Solomon, eds., “Defining Death: Organ Transplantation and the Fifty-Year Legacy of the Harvard Report on Brain Death.” Hastings Center Report 48, no. 6 (2018): special supplement. Read full text here Read Introduction here

Susan M. Wolf, Nancy Berlinger, and Bruce Jennings, “40 Years of Work on End-of-Life Care – From Patients’ Rights to Systemic Reform,” NEJM 372; 7 (2015): 678-82. Read here

 Nancy Berlinger, Ray Barfield, and Alan R. Fleischman, Facing Persistent Challenges in Pediatric Decision-Making: New Hastings Center Guidelines,” Pediatrics 132:5 (2013): 789-91. Read here

 Immigrant health, safety and harm in health systems

Jacqueline L. Angel and Nancy Berlinger, “The Trump Administration’s Assault on Health and Social Programs: Potential Consequences for Older Hispanics,” Journal of Aging and Social Policy 30:3-4 (2018):300-315. Read abstract here

Lilia Cervantes, Stacy Fischer, Nancy Berlinger, et al., “The Illness Experience of Undocumented Immigrants with End-stage Renal Disease,” JAMA Internal Medicine 177, no. 4 (2017): 529-535. Read here

N Berlinger and R Raghavan, “The Ethics of Advocacy for Undocumented Patients,” Hastings Center Report 43, no.1 (2013): 14-17. Read abstract here

Selected policy recommendations

Population aging, medical decision-making

Public symposium: “Aging in (a) Place: Planning, Design & Spatial Justice in Aging Societies,” Harvard Graduate School of Design, October 18, 2019. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies in partnership with The Hastings Center. Agenda and videos here

Jacqueline J. Chin, Michael C. Dunn, Nancy Berlinger, and Michael K. Gusmano, “Good Care at Home for Older People in Singapore,” Centre for Biomedical Ethics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, 2017 Read here

Wendy G. Anderson, Nancy Berlinger, Julia Ragland, et al., “Hospital-Based Prognosis and Goals of Care Discussions with Seriously Ill Patients: A Pathway to Integrate a Key Primary Palliative Care Process into the Workflow of Hospitalist Physicians and their Teams.” Society of Hospital Medicine and The Hastings Center, 2017. Read here

Immigrant health, safety and harm in health systems

Nancy Berlinger, Claudia Calhoon, Michael K. Gusmano, and Jacqueline Vimo, “Undocumented Patients and Access to Health Care in New York City: Identifying Fair, Effective, and Sustainable Local Policy Solutions: Report and Recommendations to the Office of the Mayor of New York City,” The Hastings Center and the New York Immigration Coalition, April 2015. Read here


Nancy BerlingerNancy Berlinger, Are Workarounds Ethical? Managing Moral Problems in Health Care Systems (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Nancy BerlingerNancy Berlinger, Bruce Jennings, and Susan M. Wolf, The Hastings Center Guidelines for Decisions on Life-Sustaining Treatment and Care Near the End of Life: Revised and Expanded Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 2013; Japanese translation, 2016).Nancy BerlingerNancy Berlinger, After Harm: Medical Error and the Ethics of Forgiveness (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).

Jacqueline J. Chin, Nancy Berlinger, Michael C. Dunn, Calvin W-L. Ho, Michael K. Gusmano, eds., Making Difficult Decisions with Patients and Families: A Singapore Casebook (National University of Singapore, January 2014) Read here

Jacqueline J. Chin, Nancy Berlinger, Michael C. Dunn, Michael K. Gusmano, eds., Caring for Older People in an Aging Society: A Singapore Bioethics Casebook, Volume II (National University of Singapore, May 2017) Read here

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