I am the Cullen Professor of Medical Ethics and Associate Director for the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. I received my Ph.D. in philosophy, with a specialization in bioethics, from Michigan State University in 2008. My dissertation was on the philosophy of ambivalence and its impact on autonomy and agency.
My research focuses primarily on the philosophical and ethical questions raised by research on human judgment and decision-making. For example, what are we to make of autonomy and rationality given the many frailties in judgment and decision-making (e.g., cognitive biases and heuristics, weakness of will, ambivalence and indecision)? Is it morally permissible to use knowledge of these biases and weaknesses (in other words, principles from behavioral economics and decision psychology) to influence people’s decisions and behaviors? Under what conditions/circumstances? Is this manipulation? If so, what is the moral status of manipulation–might it sometimes be permissible or even morally desirable?
My more applied work focuses on developing both practical and moral guidelines for the use of principles from behavioral economics and decisional psychology (e.g., framing effects, default options, incentives, focusing effects, commitment contracts and subconscious priming) to shape people’s medical decisions and behaviors.
Two other secondary ares of research are ethical and philosophical issues in psychiatry/neurology/neuroscience (“neuroethics”) and the intersection of bioethics and continental philosophy (esp. existentialism and phenomenology).
I have served as a member of the American Philosophical Association Committee on Philosophy of Medicine, am co-founder of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities Medical Decision Making Affinity Group, and an alumnus of the Greenwall Faculty Scholars Program in Bioethics. I am currently an Associate Editor for the Journal of Medical Ethics, on the Board of Directors for the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH), and serve on the editorial board for The American Journal of Bioethics. My research has been funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), The Greenwall Foundation, AHRQ, and the NIH Brain Initiative.