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Richard Dees - University of Rochester. Rochester, NY, US

Richard Dees Richard Dees

Associate Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics | University of Rochester


Richard Dees' research and teaching interests are in public health ethics, neuroethics, and political philosophy.

Areas of Expertise (3)


Public Health Ethics

Political Philosophy



Richard Dees Publication



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I research and teach public health ethics, neuroethics, and political philosophy. In addition to my primary appointment in Philosophy, I also serve as chair of the Steering Committee for the Public Health-Related Majors, a group of five interdisciplinary majors: Bioethics, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Health Policy, and Health, Behavior, and Society. Within the program, I direct the Bioethics major.

I also hold an appointment in Bioethics in the Division of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the University of Rochester Medical School, and I work with the Clinical Ethics program, the Ethics Committee, and the solid organ transplant teams. Outside Rochester, I serve on the Ethics Committee of the Empire State Stem Cell Board for the State of New York.

Education (3)

University of Rochester Medical School: Fellowship in Clinical Ethics 2010

University of Michigan: Ph.D., Philosophy 1990

Rice University: B.A., Philosophy 1982

Affiliations (3)

  • Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee for the State of Connecticut
  • American Philosophical Association Committee on Philosophy and Medicine
  • Lyon Daughters Lecture in Bioethics Committee

Research Grants (1)

Teaching the Science and Ethics of Stem Cells

New York Embryonic Stem Cell Commission $272,000


Co-principal investigator, Teaching the Science and Ethics of Stem Cells. New York Embryonic Stem Cell Commission, 2010-12.

Selected Articles (3)

Transparent Vessels?: What Organ Donors Should Be Allowed to Know about Their Recipients

Journal of Law, Medicine, and Philosophy

Richard H. Dees

2013 A live organ donor needs to be informed carefully about the risks and benefits of her donation for both herself and her recipient, but a key ethical question is how much the donor is allowed to know about the recipient. To decide this question, we must first decide whether, out of respect for autonomy, the donor should decide how much she wants to know, or whether the transplant team, as the professionals, should decide what information is relevant to the donor's decision. I argue that the transplant team should control the process. While the donor has the right to know enough about her recipient to assess the risk to herself and the prospects for a successful donation, she is not entitled to any further information, no matter how much she wants it. In particular, I argue that donors are not entitled to information that has not been shown to affect outcomes, but that they should be told if a recipient is HIV or that he has rejected a previous organ due to non‐compliance. Donors have a right to make decisions with all the information they need, but recipients need not make their lives completely transparent.

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The Ethics of Krabbe Newborn Screening

Public Health Ethics

Richard H. Dees, Jennifer M. Kwon

2012 The experience of newborn screening for Krabbe disease in New York State demonstrates the ethical problems that arise when screening programs are expanded in the absence of true understanding of the diseases involved. In its 5 years of testing and millions of dollars in costs, there have been very few benefits, and the testing has uncovered potential cases of late-onset disease that raise difficult ethical questions in their own right. For these reasons, we argue that Krabbe screening should only be continued as a research project that includes the informed consent of parents to the testing.

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Better Brains, Better Selves? The Ethics of Neuroenhancements

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal

Richard H. Dees

2007 The idea of enhancing our mental functions through medical means makes many people uncomfortable. People have a vague feeling that altering our brains tinkers with the core of our personalities and the core of ourselves. It changes who we are, and doing so seems wrong, even if the exact reasons for the unease are difficult to define. Many of the standard arguments against neuroenhancements—that they are unsafe, that they violate the distinction between therapy and enhancements, that they undermine equality, and that they will be used coercively—fail to show why the use of any such technologies is wrong in principle. Two other objections—the arguments that such changes undermine our integrity and that they prevent us from living authentic lives—will condemn only a few of the uses that are proposed. The result is that very few uses of these drugs are morally suspect and that most uses are morally permissible.

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