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Alan Meisel, JD

Dickie, McCamey and Chilcote Professor of Bioethics, and Professor of Law and Psychiatry

University of Pittsburgh




University of Pittsburgh School of Law

520 Barco Law Building

3900 Forbes Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15260


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Alan Meisel is an authority on legal aspects of decision-making in the physician-patient relationship. His work focuses on both the theory and the practice of informed consent and the right to refuse medical treatment. His most recent book, The Right to Die: The Law of End-of-Life Decisionmaking, is now in its third edition. The first edition won the 1989 American Association of Publishers’ award for the best book in its category. His other books include Informed Consent: Legal Theory and Clinical Practice (with Appelbaum and Lidz) and Informed Consent: A Study of Decisionmaking in Psychiatry (with Lidz, Roth, et al.). He was assistant director for legal studies on the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research and participated in the writing of the Commission’s reports on informed consent and forgoing life-sustaining treatment. He also served on the Ethics Working Group of the White House Task Force on Health Care Reform in 1993. Professor Meisel is a fellow of the Hastings Center and a member of the editorial boards of Bioethics Books, the Journal of Clinical Ethics, the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, and Law, Medicine and Ethics. He is a member of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Bioethics and a member of the board of directors of the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics.


Prof. Meisel holds a primary faculty appointment in the School of Law where he directs the Health Law Certificate Program and teaches courses in bioethics and law, genetics and law, health law and policy, death and dying, and tort law. He also co-directs the joint JD-MA program in law and bioethics and the joint JD-MPH program in law and public health. He holds a secondary faculty appointment in the Department of Psychiatry, and in 1995 was appointed the Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote Professor of Bioethics. He teaches medical ethics in the School of Medicine and in the psychiatry and geriatric residency programs.


He serves on the University’s Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight, the UPMC-Presbyterian Ethics Committee, the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Ethics Committee, the Center for Fertility Services Ethics Committee, and the Children’s Hospital Disorders of Sexual Differentiation Committee.


BA – Economics (cum laude), Yale College (1968)
JD – Yale Law School (1972)

Teaching Activities

School of Law:
Bioethics and Law
Current Issues in Health Law
Health Law & Policy


School of Medicine:
PMS3 Pediatrics
Ethics, Law and Professionalism

Psychiatry Resident Training

Selected Publications

Books and Reports

Meisel A, Cerminara KL. The Right to Die: The Law of End-of-Life Decisionmaking.
New York: Aspen Law and Business (annual supplements 2005-2015).


Meisel A, Cerminara K. The Right to Die: The Law of End-of-Life Decisionmaking. New York: Aspen Law and Business (3d ed.), 2004.


Appelbaum PS, Lidz CW, Meisel A. Informed Consent: Legal Theory and Clinical Practice.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.


Frolik LA, Meisel A, Schieve MA. Pennsylvania Elderlaw Manual 1987.


Benesch K,  Abramson NS, Grenvik A, Meisel A.  Medicolegal Aspects of Critical Care Medicine.  Rockville, Md.: Aspen, 1986.


Lidz CW, Meisel A, Zerubavel E, Carter M, Sestak R, Roth LH.  Informed Consent: A Study of Decisionmaking in Psychiatry.  New York: Guilford Press, 1984.


President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, Deciding to Forego Life-Sustaining Treatment. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1983 (with other commission staff).


President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, Making Health Care Decisions: The Ethical Implications of Informed Consent in the Patient-Practitioner Relationship. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1982 (with other commission staff).



Quill TE, Lo B, Brock DW, Meisel A. Last-resort options for palliative sedation. Annals of Internal Medicine September 15, 2009; 151(6): 421-4.


Meisel A. Line, please. Hastings Center Report March-April 2009; 39(2): 4-5.


Meisel A. The role of litigation in end of life care: a reappraisal. Hastings Center Report November-December 2005; Spec No: S47-51.


DeMets D, Fleming T, Rockhold F, Massie B, Merchant T, Meisel A, Mishkin B, Wittes J, Stump D, Califf R. Liability issues for data monitoring committee members. Clinical Trials 2004; 1: 525-531.


Meisel A, Snyder L, Quill T. Seven legal barriers to end-of-life care—myths, realities, and grains of truth. Journal of the American Medical Association 2000; 284: 2495-2501, reprinted In:  Snyder L, Quill TE, editors. Physicians’ Guide to End-of-Life Care. Philadelphia, PA: American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, 2001.


Meisel A. Pharmacists, physician-assisted suicide, and pain control. University of Maryland Journal of Health Care Law & Policy 1999; 2: 201-232.


Meisel A, Jernigan J, Youngner S.  Prosecutors and end-of-life decision making. Archives Internal Medicine 1999; 159: 1089-1095.


Meisel A. Managed care, autonomy, and decision-making at the end-of-life. University of Houston Law Review 1999; 35: 1393-1436.


Meisel A, Kuczewski MG.  Legal myths about informed consent. Archives of Internal Medicine 1996; 156: 2521-2526, condensed in Resident Physician 1997; 2(3): 1.


Meisel A. Barriers to forgoing nutrition and hydration in nursing homes. American Journal of Law and Medicine 1995; 21: 335-382.


Meisel A. A retrospective on Cruzan. Law, Medicine, and Health Care 1992; 20: 340-353.


Meisel A. The legal consensus about forgoing life-sustaining treatment: its status and its prospects. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 1992; 2: 309-345.


Meisel A. Legal myths about terminating life support. Archives of Internal Medicine 1991; 151: 1497-1502.


Meisel A. Lessons from Cruzan. Journal of Clinical Ethics 1990; 1: 245-250.


Meisel A. “Dignitary tort” as a bridge between the idea of informed consent and the law of informed consent. Law, Medicine & Health Care 1988; 16: 210-218, reprinted In: Dickens B, editor. Medicine and the Law. London: Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1992.


Lidz CW, Appelbaum PS, Meisel A. Two models of implementing informed consent. Archives of Internal Medicine 1988; 148: 1385-1389, reprinted In: Mappes T, Appelbaum J, editors. Biomedical Ethics.

Appelbaum PS, Meisel A.  Therapists’ obligations to report their patients’ criminal acts.  Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 1986; 14: 221-230.


Abramson NS, Meisel A, Safar P. Deferred consent: a new approach for resuscitation research on comatose patients. JAMA 1986; 255: 2466-2471.


Meisel A, Roth LH. Toward an informed discussion of informed consent: a review of the empirical studies. Arizona Law Review 1983; 25: 265-345, reprinted in Bioethics Reporter 1983; 3: 361-442.


Meisel A. Making mental health care decisions: informed consent and involuntary civil commitment. Behavioral Sciences & the Law 1983; 1: 73-88.

Selected Presentations

From Tragedy to Catastrophe: The Bureaucratization of Informed Consent. A World Less Silent: Celebrating Jay Katz’s Contributions to Law, Medicine, and Ethics. Yale Law School. New Haven, CT: October 15, 2004.


Legal and Ethical Issues in Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Cloning. Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Health Law Institute. Philadelphia, PA: March 17, 2004.


End-of-Life-Decisionmaking in Germany and the United States. Ludwig-Maximillian University. Munich, Germany: November 30, 2001.


Ending Life and the End of Life: Does It Matter How We Do It? Bruce Hubbard Stewart Seminar, Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland, OH: November 16, 2001.