Seminar Series: Ethical and Practical Challenges with Surrogate Decision Making by Douglas White, MD

Monday, Apr 24, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Bloomberg School of Public Health Feinstone Hall
615 N. Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD

Join us in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Feinstone Hall or virtually at:
Password: Seminar

Dr. Douglas White will present on the ethical and practical challenges that arise in the context of surrogate decision making for acutely ill, incapacitated patients. This presentation will explore the nature of the “work” that surrogates must do in this context and the failure of interventions focused narrowly on improving information sharing about prognosis, values, and treatment options. Dr. White will summarize recent and ongoing trials of interventions grounded in a broader conceptualization of what surrogates need to accomplish the ethical goals of surrogate decision making.

Douglas White, MD, directs the University of Pittsburgh Program on Ethics and Decision Making in Critical Illness. His research program encompasses both empirical research on and normative ethical analysis of surrogate decision making for patients with life-threatening illness. He has published widely using both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the process of surrogate decision making in intensive care units. In conducting this work, he collaborates with a multi-disciplinary group of investigators, which includes faculty with expertise in bioethics, law, philosophy, sociology, biostatistics, and health services research. His empirical research program has two central aims: 1) to identify factors that adversely affect surrogate decision making for critically ill patients; and 2) to develop and test interventions to improve surrogate decision making. His normative work focuses on ethical issues that arise in intensive care units, including the allocation of scarce resources, resolving futility disputes, responding to conscience-based treatment refusals by clinicians, and developing fair processes of decision making for incapacitated patients who lack surrogate decision makers.

Dr. White graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1995 with a degree in English Literature. He received his MD from UCSF and completed a residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at UCSF. While at UCSF, he also completed a Master’s degree in Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a fellowship in Bioethics under Bernard Lo. He joined the faculty at UCSF in 2005 as an Assistant Professor of Medicine and a Core Faculty of the Program on Medical Ethics. In 2009 he joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh in the Departments of Critical Care Medicine and Medicine as an Associate Professor.