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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
Email: bernat@dartmouth.edu

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


The Brain-as-a-Whole Criterion and the Uniform Determination of Death Act.
Bernat JL
AJOB Neurosci. 2023 Jul-Sep;14(3):271-274. doi: 10.1080/21507740.2023.2243889.
PMID: 37682673

Challenges to Brain Death in Revising the Uniform Determination of Death Act: The UDDA Revision Series.
Bernat JL
Neurology. 2023 Jul 4;101(1):30-37. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207334.
PMID: 37400259

Inconsistency between the Circulatory and the Brain Criteria of Death in the Uniform Determination of Death Act.
Molina-Perez A, Bernat JL, Dalle Ave A
J Med Philos. 2023 Sep 14;48(5):422-433. doi: 10.1093/jmp/jhad029.
PMID: 37364165

Understanding the Brain-based Determination of Death When Organ Recovery Is Performed With DCDD In Situ Normothermic Regional Perfusion.
Bernat JL, Dominguez-Gil B, Glazier AK, Gardiner D, Manara AR, Shemie S, Porte RJ, Martin DE, Opdam H, McGee A, Lopez Fraga M, Rayar M, Kerforne T, Bušić M, Romagnoli R, Zanierato M, Tullius SG, Miñambres E, Royo-Villanova M, Delmonico FL
Transplantation. 2023 Aug 1;107(8):1650-1654. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000004642. Epub 2023 Jul 20.
PMID: 37170405

Answering global challenges to the determination of death: consensus-building leadership from Canada.
Gardiner D, Greer DM, Bernat JL, Meade MO, Opdam H, Schwarz SKW
Can J Anaesth. 2023 Apr;70(4):468-477. doi: 10.1007/s12630-023-02423-4. Epub 2023 May 2.
PMID: 37131024

Clarifying the DDR and DCD.
Bernat JL
Am J Bioeth. 2023 Feb;23(2):1-3. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2022.2159585.
PMID: 36681926

Normothermic Regional Perfusion Requires Careful Ethical Analysis Before Adoption Into Donation After Circulatory Determination of Death.
Peled H, Mathews S, Rhodes D, Bernat JL
Crit Care Med. 2022 Nov 1;50(11):1644-1648. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000005632. Epub 2022 Oct 13.
PMID: 36227032

Fred Plum (1924-2010).
Michaelson NM, Schiff ND, Bernat JL
J Neurol. 2023 Mar;270(3):1811-1812. doi: 10.1007/s00415-022-11420-4. Epub 2022 Oct 10.
PMID: 36216890

Black Patients Matter in Neurology: Race, Racism, and Race-Based Neurodisparities.
Robbins NM, Charleston L 4th, Saadi A, Thayer Z, Codrington WU 3rd, Landry A, Bernat JL, Hamilton R
Neurology. 2022 Jul 19;99(3):106-114. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200830.
PMID: 35851551

Why arch vessel ligation is unethical for thoracoabdominal normothermic regional perfusion.
Peled H, Bernat JL
J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2022 Aug;164(2):e93. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2022.04.029. Epub 2022 May 24.
PMID: 35624054

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