Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D. | President
Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D., is a Founding Director and President of the American Unit of the International Chair in Bioethics. He is a Princeton (‘72) and Harvard Medical School (’76) graduate, maintains an active psychiatric patient practice, teaches and mentors at Harvard Medical School, and consults locally, nationally, and internationally to physicians across the primary and medical specialties, health care institutions and the judiciary as an expert in medical ethics, forensic psychiatry and risk management. At Harvard Medical School he co-founded the Program in Psychiatry and the Law at the Beth Israel Medical Center and the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, has served as the Medical School Alumni Council representative to the Harvard University Alumni Council and has a special interest in medical education related philanthropic activities. In recognition of his many years serving as a Principal Mentor for students at Harvard Medical School Dr. Bursztajn received the A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award. His continued interest in post-traumatic growth and career-long medical education is reflected by his being honored in 2015 as a Vanderbilt Medical School Flexner Deans Lecturer. A video of his Flexner Dean’s Lecture Healthcare from Hell to Here: Moral Courage and Vulnerability from the Shoah (1939-1945) to Today is available on the Vanderbilt website.
Dr. Bursztajn continues to be interested in related issues which have emerged. Thus the population has aged, and neuropsychiatric knowledge has advanced that there are now related issues relevant to the capacity of fragile elderly. New technology, such as the internet, also brings with it a host of clinical, forensic and bioethical issues that Dr. Bursztajn continues to explore with a variety of students and colleagues.
Clinician-patient communication continues to be vital for patient and physician decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. This has been an area of special bio-ethical, clinical, and forensic interest for Dr. Bursztajn beginning with his first book, Medical Choices, Medical Chances: How Patients, Families, and Physicians Can Cope With Uncertainty. This book as garnered favorable reviews from a wide range of publications.
As President of the American Unit of the International Chair in Bioethics he coordinates the Unit’s activities relative to mentoring, health care ethics education and research. He has coauthored two UNESCO Bioethics Chair handbooks:
- Perlin ML, Bursztajn HJ, Gledhill K, Szeli E. Psychiatric Ethics and the Rights of Persons with Mental Disabilities in Institutions and the Community. UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, 2008. [pdf]
- Haque OS, De Freitas J, Bursztajn HJ, Cosgrove L, Gopal AA, Paul R, Shuv-Ami I, Wolfman S. The Ethics of Pharmaceutical Industry Influence in Medicine. UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, 2013.
Selected Publications and Updates
- HIPAA vs Ethical Care: Accounting for Privacy With Neuropsychiatric Impairments. The law presumes that individuals are rational. But what about when the patient has neuropsychiatric impairments that hinder judgement?
- The Art of Bioethical Resilience in the Midst of Grief and Fear. Massachusetts Mental Health Center Grand Rounds, January 19, 2022.
- Resilience, Not Panic, in a Time of Pandemic. Psychiatric Times, March 3, 2020.
- Physician Know Thyself to Help and Heal: From the (1939-1945) Shoah’s Times of Catastrophe and Great Moral Hazard to Todays (2017) Ethical Challenges to Clinicians. International Academy of Law and Mental Health XXXVth International Congress on Law and Mental Health, July 10, 2017.
- Trauma, Resilience, Resistance, Photography, and Memory of the Shoah. Museum of Fine Arts Gallery Talk, Boston, MA, June 17, 2017.
- Haque OS, Choi J, Phillips T, Bursztajn HJ. Why are young westerners drawn to terrorist organizations like ISIS? Psychiatr Times. 2015;32(9).
- “Healthcare from Hell to Here: Trauma and Resilience from the Shoah (1939-1945) to Today (2015).” Longwood Psychiatry Grand Rounds, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, October 15, 2015. A presentation which explores the relationship between trauma, massive psychic trauma, and post-traumatic discrimination.
- Young MJ, Scheinberg E, Bursztajn HJ. Direct-to-patient laboratory test reporting: Balancing access with effective clinical communication. JAMA. 2014;312(2):127-128.
- De Freitas J, Falls BA, Haque OS, Bursztajn HJ. Vulnerabilities to misinformation in online pharmaceutical marketing. J R Soc Med. 2013;106(5):184-189.
Recommended Readings for Maintaining Morale and Morals in Medicine:
- Bursztajn HJ, Feinbloom RI, Hamm RM, Brodsky A. Medical Choices, Medical Chances: How Patients, Families, and Physicians Can Cope With Uncertainty. New York: Delacorte, 1981; New York: Routledge, 1990.
- Reiser SJ, Bursztajn HJ, Gutheil TG, Appelbaum PS. Divided Staffs, Divided Selves: A Case Approach to Mental Health Ethics. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
- Pories SE, Mullangi S, Shah AK, Vallurupalli M. Soul of a patient: Lessons in healing for harvard medical students. Laguna Woods, CA: Ingram, 2018.