Karen Gervais Director


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KAREN G. GERVAIS, PHD, Director of the Minnesota Center for Health Care Ethics, received her BA from Oberlin College, and her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Minnesota. She began her career as a philosophy professor in 1971. Mentored by Dan Clouser, whom she met at an early Hastings Center summer workshop, she developed an extensive undergraduate program in bioethics at Illinois Wesleyan University from 1974-89, teaching with members of the nursing school and biology department, and enlarging the philosophy curriculum by creating her own courses in death and dying, research ethics, genetic screening/engineering, and reproductive ethics. The publication of her book, Redefining Death, by Yale University Press in 1986 marks her career transition into the field of health care ethics. Invited by Arthur Caplan to be a visiting scholar and Center Associate at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Minnesota in 1989, many opportunities opened for her as both ethicist and educator upon returning to her home state of Minnesota. She served as Coordinator of the Minnesota Network for Institutional Ethics Committees; Winifred and Atherton Bean Visiting Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Carleton College; Visiting Distinguished Professor of Law and Liberal Studies at Hamline University; and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf College, a position she still holds. In 1994, she became the first director of the Minnesota Center for Health Care Ethics.

Dr. Gervais’ scholarly interests include ethical issues in health system transformation, particularly the dual obligation to serve patient and population; public and global health policy; rationing; aging and dementia; and the definition of death. She has been an ethics and policy consultant for the Institute of Medicine, Office of Technology Assessment, Minnesota Council of Health Plans, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, Science Museum of Minnesota, American Association of Health Plans, National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the National Marrow Donor Program. She served as member of the Minnesota Commission on End-of-Life Care and the Minnesota Department of Health’s Task Force on Health and Bioterrorism, and was co-leader of the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project. She co-directed a community-wide ethics project (sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health) on rationing health care resources in a severe pandemic and is co-author of “For the Good of Us All: Ethically Rationing Health Resources in Minnesota in a Severe Influenza Pandemic.” She has published in the Hastings Center Report, American Journal of Bioethics, IRB, The American Journal of Managed Care, Medical Humanities Review, Minnesota Medicine, and contributed articles to several edited works, including the Encyclopedia of Bioethics.