Last updated on: 5/2/2012 | Author:

Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD Biography

Chair of the Department of Bioethics at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health
Con to the question "Should Euthanasia or Physician-Assisted Suicide Be Legal?"

“The proper policy, in my view, should be to affirm the status of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia as illegal. In so doing we would affirm that as a society we condemn ending a patient’s life and do not consider that to have one’s life ended by a doctor is a right. This does not mean we deny that in exceptional cases interventions are appropriate, as acts of desperation when all other elements of treatment- all medications, surgical procedures, psychotherapy, spiritual care, and so on- have been tried. Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia should not be performed simply because a patient is depressed, tired of life, worried about being a burden, or worried about being dependent. All these may be signs that not every effort has yet been made.

By establishing a social policy that keeps physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia illegal but recognizes exceptions, we would adopt the correct moral view: the onus of proving that everything had been tried and that the motivation and rationale were convincing would rest on those who wanted to end a life.”

“Whose Right to Die?,” The Atlantic, Mar. 1997

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Chair, Department of Bioethics, Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health (NIH), 1997-present
  • President, NIH Assembly of Scientists, 2004-present
  • Member, Advisory Board, Humana, 2007
  • Member, Advisory Committee on Health Care Reform Initiative, Mayo Clinic, 2006
  • Member, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2004
  • Chair, Ethics Committee, American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2003–2004
  • Chair, Task Force on Quality of Cancer Care, American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2000-2004
  • Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2002-2003
  • Chair, Task Force on Conflict of Interest, American Society of Clinical Oncology, 1999-2002
  • Chair, Committee to Develop Ethical Guidelines Academy/Health, Society of Health Services Researchers, 2002-2003
  • Member, Medical Advisory Board, Cancer Care, Inc., 2000
  • Member, National Bioethics Advisory Commission, 1996-1998
  • Member, President Clinton’s Health Care Task Force, 1993
  • Former Member, Editorial Board for: Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of Clinical Ethics, Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
  • PhD, Political Philosophy, Harvard University, 1989
  • MD, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, 1988
  • MSc, Biochemistry, Exeter College, Oxford University, 1981
  • BA, Chemistry, Amherst College, 1979
  • Developed the Medical Directive, a comprehensive living will that has been endorsed by Consumer Reports on Health, Harvard Health Letter, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal
Quoted in:
  1. Would Financial Motivations Encourage Insurance Companies and Health Care Providers to Promote Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide?
  2. Is a Physician ever Obligated to Help a Patient Die?