Call for Entries: The 21st Annual Henry K. Beecher Prize in Medical Ethics

Prize of $1,000 for the best essay in the field of medical ethics
Henry K. Beecher
Henry K. Beecher, Henry Isaiah Dorr Professor of Anaesthesia Research. Image: Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics is pleased to announce a call for submissions for the annual Henry K. Beecher Prize in Medical Ethics.

A prize of $1,000 will be awarded to an HMS or HSDM student for the best scholarly essay on any topic in ethics and medicine.

The essays will be judged by a blind panel with expertise in medical ethics. 

Entries must be submitted by Monday, April 15, 2019.

The Beecher Prize is established in honor of the late Henry K. Beecher, MD, Henry Isaiah Dorr Professor of Anaesthesia. Dr. Beecher was the first professor of anaesthesia at Harvard, and was an indefatigable clinician, educator, and investigator. His provocative work in the 1950's included work on the effects of placebos in medicine and research. 

Dr. Beecher helped launch the modern field of medical ethics with his 1966 New England Journal of Medicine article, "Ethics and Clinical Research," which exposed widespread ethical violations in research using human subjects. Many of these studies had been published in leading peer-reviewed medical journals and supported by agencies of the U.S. Government. Dr. Beecher's paper catalyzed major and enduring ethical reforms in human experimentation and patients' rights.

Read more about Dr. Beecher and his work in Harvard Magazine.

The Beecher Prize continues Dr. Beecher's legacy of critical ethical analysis of contemporary medical issues.

Entries must be submitted by
Monday, April 15, 2019, to:

Beecher Prize Committee
HMS Center for Bioethics
641 Huntington Avenue, 2nd floor
Boston, MA 02115

Criteria for judging essays:

  • Clear presentation of the ethical issue and its importance, including its historical and social context;
  • Ethical analysis of alternative approaches to the issue;
  • Ethical justification of any concluding recommendations;
  • Originality of thought; scholarly rigor;
  • Clarity of expression and quality of writing.

Students may submit an original piece of writing or work done for a class. Authorship should be the student's alone. Papers should be double-spaced in 11 point font with 1" margins. 10-12 pages suggested, 15 page maximum.

2018 Essay: "The Ethics of Public Health Nudges: Libertarian Paternalism and the Manipulation of Choice" by HMS student Derek Soled.
2017 Essay: "A Decade Has Passed: It's Time to Mandate HPV Vaccination," by HMS student Michelle Bayefsky.
2016 Essay: "Negotiating Ambiguities in Life and Death," by HMS student Margaret Hayden.