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James L. Bernat, MD

Emeritus Professor of Neurology


Cornell University Medical College, MD 1973
University of Massachusetts, BA 1969



Contact Information:

Neurology Department
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
1 Rope Ferry Road
Hanover NH 03755

Phone: 802-649-1346

Professional Interests:

Brain death and the definition of death.
Coma, vegetative states, and other disorder of consciousness.
Ethical and philosophical issues in neurology.

Grant Information:

SYNERGY: Dartmouth Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Director: Research Ethics


James L. Bernat, M.D., formerly the Louis and Ruth Frank Professor of Neuroscience at Dartmouth Medical School, earned a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts (1965-69) and an M.D. from Cornell University Medical College (1969-73). He trained in internal medicine and neurology at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (1973-77). Dr. Bernat has been a Dartmouth Medical School faculty member since 1976 and has held the rank of Professor of Medicine and Neurology since 1989. Dr. Bernat was the Director of the Program in Clinical Ethics at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Previously he served as Assistant Dean of Clinical Education at Dartmouth Medical School. He served for 28 years on the American Academy of Neurology Ethics, Law & and Humanities Committee, with 10 years as chairman. Dr. Bernat has been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Omega Alpha, and fellowships in the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Neurology, and The Hastings Center. He is a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. In 2011, he received the Presidential Award from the American Academy of Neurology for lifetime service to American neurology.

Dr. Bernat's scholarly interests are in ethical and philosophical issues in neurology. He has authored over 250 articles and chapters on topics in neurology and clinical ethics. He is the author of Ethical Issues in Neurology, 3rd ed. (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008), coeditor of Palliative Care in Neurology (Oxford University Press, 2004), and coeditor of Ethical and Legal Issues in Neurology (Elsevier, 2013) He testified on the vegetative state before the United States Senate Health Committee and was a consultant on brain death to the Institute of Medicine, the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and the Pontifical Academy for Life. He chaired the US DHHS HRSA Division of Transplantation panel on determining death in organ donors and served on the World Health Organization international committee on standards for death determination.

Selected Publications:


Language and Meaning: Then and now.
Shevell M, Bernat JL
Pediatr Neurol. 2020 Oct;111:87. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2020.08.006. Epub 2020 Aug 18.
PMID: 32861581

Determination of Brain Death/Death by Neurologic Criteria: The World Brain Death Project.
Greer DM, Shemie SD, Lewis A, Torrance S, Varelas P, Goldenberg FD, Bernat JL, Souter M, Topcuoglu MA, Alexandrov AW, Baldisseri M, Bleck T, Citerio G, Dawson R, Hoppe A, Jacobe S, Manara A, Nakagawa TA, Pope TM, Silvester W, Thomson D, Al Rahma H, Badenes R, Baker AJ, Cerny V, Chang C, Chang TR, Gnedovskaya E, Han MK, Honeybul S, Jimenez E, Kuroda Y, Liu G, Mallick UK, Marquevich V, Mejia-Mantilla J, Piradov M, Quayyum S, Shrestha GS, Su YY, Timmons SD, Teitelbaum J, Videtta W, Zirpe K, Sung G
JAMA. 2020 Sep 15;324(11):1078-1097. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.11586.
PMID: 32761206

Ethical Justifications for Pandemic Rationing Strategies.
Bernat JL
Ann Neurol. 2020 Jul 13; doi: 10.1002/ana.25848. Epub 2020 Jul 13.
PMID: 32662219

Author's Response.
Delmonico FL, Dominguez-Gil B, Ascher NL, Glazier AK, Henderson GV, Bernat JL
Transplantation. 2020 Jul;104(7):e218-e219. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000003185.
PMID: 32569007

Refinements in the Organism as a Whole Rationale for Brain Death.
Bernat JL
Linacre Q. 2019 Nov;86(4):347-358. doi: 10.1177/0024363919869795. Epub 2019 Sep 10.
PMID: 32431427

Permanent brain arrest as the sole criterion of death in systemic circulatory arrest.
Gardiner D, McGee A, Bernat JL
Anaesthesia. 2020 Sep;75(9):1223-1228. doi: 10.1111/anae.15050. Epub 2020 May 19.
PMID: 32430978

Policies for Mandatory Ethics Consultations at U.S. Academic Teaching Hospitals: A Multisite Survey Study.
Neal JB, Pearlman RA, White DB, Tolchin B, Sheth KN, Bernat JL, Hwang DY
Crit Care Med. 2020 Jun;48(6):847-853. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000004343.
PMID: 32317595

Clinical Decision-Making for Patients with Disorders of Consciousness.
Bernat JL
Ann Neurol. 2020 Jan;87(1):19-21. doi: 10.1002/ana.25636. Epub 2019 Nov 18.
PMID: 31688951

The Organism as a Whole in an Analysis of Death.
Huang AP, Bernat JL
J Med Philos. 2019 Nov 11;44(6):712-731. doi: 10.1093/jmp/jhz025.
PMID: 31586180

Commentary: Further Considerations in Using Functional Neuroimaging in Patients with Disorders of Consciousness.
Bernat JL
Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2019 Oct;28(4):632-634. doi: 10.1017/S0963180119000562.
PMID: 31526422

View more publications on PubMed