Robert D. Truog

Robert D. Truog, MD, MA

Director Emeritus, HMS Center for Bioethics
Frances Glessner Lee Distinguished Professor of Medical Ethics, Anaesthesia, and Pediatrics, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, HMS
Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital

Bob TruogDr. Robert Truog is the Frances Glessner Lee Distinguished Professor of Medical Ethics, Anaesthesia, and Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Truog received his medical degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and is board certified in the practices of pediatrics, anesthesiology, and pediatric critical care medicine. He also holds a master’s degree in philosophy from Brown University and an honorary master of arts from Harvard University.

Dr. Truog’s career in bioethics began at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he served for many years as associate director of the Office of Ethics, co-chair of the Ethics Advisory Committee, and as executive director of the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice. In 1992 he co-founded the Fellowship Program in Medical Ethics at HMS, and in 1999 co-founded the Harvard Ethics Consortium, which for almost 25 years has brought together the ethics committees at the Harvard teaching hospitals for monthly case discussions. He has also served as chair of the Harvard IRB, and since 2005 has chaired the Harvard Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee (ESCRO).

In 2004 he was recruited to HMS to join philosopher and director Dan Brock in building the Division of Medical Ethics at HMS. On professor Brock’s retirement in 2014, Dr. Truog became director and reorganized the division to become a new Center for Bioethics at HMS. During his tenure, the Center established a Master of Bioethics program, which has become one of the largest and most highly respected graduate programs in the country, and recruited talented research faculty to help build the Center’s research portfolio. He stepped down from his role as director of the Center in 2023.

Dr. Truog practices pediatric intensive care medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he has served for more than 35 years. He has published more than 300 articles in bioethics and related disciplines, and his writings on the subject of brain death have been translated into several languages. His books include "Talking with Patients and Families about Medical Error: A Guide for Education and Practice" (2010, JHUP, translated into Italian and Japanese), and "Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation" (2012, Oxford).

He lectures widely nationally and internationally, and is an active member of numerous committees and advisory boards. He has received several awards over the years, including the William G. Bartholome Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Christopher Grenvik Memorial Award, and the Shubin-Weil Master Clinician-Teacher Award, both from the Society of Critical Care Medicine. In 2013 he was honored with the Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam.

Publications View
A Multicenter Weighted Lottery to Equitably Allocate Scarce COVID-19 Therapeutics.
Authors: Authors: White DB, McCreary EK, Chang CH, Schmidhofer M, Bariola JR, Jonassaint NN, Persad G, Truog RD, Pathak P, Sonmez T, Unver MU.
Am J Respir Crit Care Med
View full abstract on Pubmed
Do Not Attempt Resuscitation in the Operating Room: A Misconstrued Paradox?
Authors: Authors: John PR, Tisherman SA, Truog RD.
J Am Coll Surg
View full abstract on Pubmed
The neuroethics of disorders of consciousness: a brief history of evolving ideas.
Authors: Authors: Young MJ, Bodien YG, Giacino JT, Fins JJ, Truog RD, Hochberg LR, Edlow BL.
View full abstract on Pubmed
Ventilator Allocation Protocols: Sophisticated Bioethics for an Unworkable Strategy.
Authors: Authors: Truog RD.
Hastings Cent Rep
View full abstract on Pubmed
It Is Time to Abandon the Dogma That Brain Death Is Biological Death.
Authors: Authors: Miller FG, Nair-Collins M, Truog RD.
Hastings Cent Rep
View full abstract on Pubmed
Attitudes towards involving children in decision-making surrounding lung transplantation.
Authors: Authors: Barsky EE, Berbert LM, Dahlberg SE, Truog RD.
Pediatr Pulmonol
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Ethical climate in contemporary paediatric intensive care.
Authors: Authors: Moynihan KM, Taylor L, Crowe L, Balnaves MC, Irving H, Ozonoff A, Truog RD, Jansen M.
J Med Ethics
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Crisis Level ICU Triage Is About Saving Lives.
Authors: Authors: Sprung CL, Joynt GM, Christian MD, Truog RD, Rello J, Nates JL.
Crit Care Med
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Seeking Conceptual Clarity in Organ Procurement Following Circulatory Determination of Death.
Authors: Authors: Truog RD.
J Law Med Ethics
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Categorized Priority Systems: A New Tool for Fairly Allocating Scarce Medical Resources in the Face of Profound Social Inequities.
Authors: Authors: Sönmez T, Pathak PA, Ünver MU, Persad G, Truog RD, White DB.
View full abstract on Pubmed

Q&A with Dr. Robert D. Truog (video)
November 23, 2015
Dr. Truog on the HMS Master of Bioethics, what drew him to a career in bioethics, key challenges in the field today and more.

Medicine and Morality: How do doctors resolve ethical dilemmas hidden in everyday patient care?
June 10, 2015
Harvard Medical School Podcast Library
Robert Truog, a Harvard Medical School professor at Boston Children’s Hospital and director of the HMS Center for Bioethics, teaches doctors and nurses to become more aware of the ethical decisions they make every day—including the conscious and unconscious biases that shape the words they use and the way they frame conversations with patients and families. This kind of “microethics” education aims to help doctors and patients alike achieve more compassionate care.

Surgery’s far frontier: Head transplants 
June 5, 2015
The Wall Street Journal 

Head transplants, at the extreme frontier of medicine, are inching toward reality. Robert Truog, director of the HMS Center for Bioethics and Frances Glessner Lee Professor of Legal Medicine and professor of anaesthesia at Boston Children's Hospital, is quoted.

The Burden of Proof 
June 2, 2015
Harvard Medicine

Dr. Robert Truog comments on the regulations and ethics of involving kids in pediatric clinical trials.

Service Members Are Left in Dark on Health Errors 
April 18, 2015
The New York Times 

Tens of thousands of serious medical mistakes happen every year at American hospitals and clinics. While a handful of health care organizations have opted for broad disclosure amid calls for greater openness, most patients and their families still face significant obstacles if they try to find out what went wrong. Center Director Dr. Robert Truog is quoted.

Bioethics for Transformative Times 
April 30, 2014 
Dean's Corner Blog
Helping researchers and caregivers find their way in the changing terrain of biomedicine. Robert Truog, the HMS Frances Glessner Lee Professor of Medical Ethics, Anaesthesia and Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, has been named director of the Center for Bioethics.