• University of Pennsylvania

The Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care aims to elevate the national conversation about the ethics of research, treatment, and delivery of behavioral health care.


The ScattergoodEthics Program is based in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

therapeutic jurisprudence

  • gavel
Expanding Therapeutic Jurisprudence Across the Federal Judiciary
Read the paper here



  • coronavirus covid19
When patients refuse COVID-19 testing, quarantine, and social distancing in inpatient psychiatry: clinical and ethical challenges
Read the BMJ paper


  • cannabis
Recreational cannabis, racial justice, and an ethical way forward for Pennsylvania
Read the Penn Live article

More From ScattergoodEthics

MBE Course: Ethics in Mental Healthcare

Penn's Master of Bioethics (MBE) Program welcomes interested students and professionals to explore the MBE and learn about the field of bioethics by taking a course with us. Interested students and professionals can take up to three courses in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy without being admitted to the Masters Program. Find Fall 2020 course offerings here, and view Dr. Dominic Sisti's course on Ethics in Mental Healthcare below.

BIOE 590: Ethics in Mental Healthcare
Instructor: Dominic Sisti
Time: Tuesdays, 4:30 - 7:00 PM EST
Location: Online

Mental health care—which includes but is not limited to psychiatry, psychology, and clinical social work—is an especially ethically fraught subdiscipline of the larger medical enterprise. Ethical issues range from garden-variety problems related to informed consent, patient capacity, and clinical professionalism to novel issues related to involuntary treatment, research on mentally ill persons, the criminalization of mental illness, and controversies surrounding nosological changes. This course will present a survey of these ethical issues by first introducing foundational concepts and critiques from philosophy, history, critical race theory, and the sociology of psychiatry. Students will be expected to become conversant in several bioethical approaches and methods and be able to use them to critically examine both historical and contemporary ethical questions in mental health care and research.


In the News

The Daily Pennsylvanian | Penn Med experts question Trump's COVID-19 treatment plan and his downplaying of virus | October 2020

Penn Live | Recreational cannabis, racial justice, and an ethical way forward for Pennsylvania | September 2020

New York Post | Kanye West needs help, but mental-health laws make it tough to intervene | July 2020

Psychology Today | When Autism Advocacy Is "Partial" | June 2020

WHYY The Pulse | Social Media’s ‘Infodemic’ | June 2020

WOSU Radio | Pandemic Ethics | June 2020

WHYY | Protests, masks and public health: where do my rights end and yours begin? | May 2020

The Philadelphia Inquirer | Should coronavirus lockdown protesters waive their medical care? Some medical ethicists think so. | May 2020

The New York Times | What’s Going to Happen to Junior, Now That His Mother Is Dead? | May 2020

All Inclusive | How Do Healthcare Providers Treat Patients Equally During the COVID-19 Pandemic? | April 2020

WHYY | Finding Help for Schizophrenia in a ‘Broken’ System | April 2020

Medscape | Suicidal Patients Often Excluded From Antidepressant Trials | February 2020

The Atlantic | Your Chemical Romance | January 2020

Psymposia | As Legal Psychedelic Therapy Emerges, Ethicists Urge for More Comprehensive Frameworks to Address Sexual Abuse | November 2019

WHYY | The Myth of Mental Illness and Gun Violence | August 2019

The Wall Street Journal | After Trump Blames Mental Illness for Mass Shootings, Health Agencies Ordered to Hold All Posts on Issue | August 2019

About Us

The Scattergood Program for the Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care (ScattergoodEthics) is housed within the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania.  

ScattergoodEthics is dedicated to education, research, and resource development for the field of psychiatric, mental, and behavioral healthcare ethics. The program engages in scholarly research, trains and educates clinicians and scholars in mental and behavioral healthcare ethics, sponsors programs and public events, and promotes and advocates for greater attention to the ethical dimensions of diagnosis and treatment.  ScattergoodEthics is funded in large part by the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation. 

Visit the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy

The Goldwater Rule

Watch: A Conversation Between Dominic A. Sisti and Jonathan D. Moreno 

The Goldwater Rule bars psychiatrists from speculating or diagnosing individuals in the public domain as having a mental health condition. The rule was established by the American Psychiatric Association 1973, in response to the 1964 presidential campaign between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson. In the midst of that campaign, the editors of Fact magazine asked psychiatrists to weigh in on whether Goldwater was psychologically fit to serve as president of the United States. Watch the video to learn more about the history of the Goldwater Rule and its ethical implications.

Recent media coverage on The Goldwater Rule:

Newsweek: Trump 'Cares About the Stock Market' Rather Than Combating Coronavirus, Says Psychiatrist: 'This Man Is About Himself'

The Washington Post: In the Age of Trump, Let Psychiatrists Judge the Mental Health of Public Figures


2020 APA Annual Meeting ScattergoodEthics Track

(Canceled Due to COVID-19)

Ethical and Professional Considerations in Integrated Behavioral Health | April 25

Writing About Controversial Topics in the Age of Social Media (a Survival Guide)  Athl-Ethics: A Sprint of Ethical Considerations in Clinical Care, Research, and Publication | April 26

Involuntary Psychiatric Care: Understanding Psychiatry’s Most Contentious Issue | April 26

Research With an Attitude: How Values Matter | April 26

Getting Your Priorities in Order: Ethical Issues in Psychiatric Research Prioritization | April 26

“Will You Let Me Die?” Terminality and Treatment Futility in Psychiatry | April 27

Is It Ever Ethical to Withhold a Psychiatric Diagnosis? A Look at Borderline Personality Disorder and the Impact of Diagnostic Nondisclosure | April 27

The #MeToo Movement: Implications for Psychiatrists | April 27

Perspective in the Assessment of Patients’ With Serious Mental Illness to Consent to Treatment | April 27

Thud: A Critical Reexamination of the History and Ethics of Rosenhan’s Experiment, “On Being Sane in Insane Places” | April 28

Navigating Clinical and Ethical Complexity in Geriatric Psychiatry | April 28

The “Other” Kind of Breakdown: Identifying and Overcoming Communication Barriers and Delivering Effective Psychiatric Care | April 29  


OCTOBER 1, 2020 | Mental Health and Medical Ethics In Times of Crisis | CoVid-19: Critical/Creative Studies in Music, Image, and Text | Register

 MARCH 3, 2020 | Ethics in Psychedelic Psychiatry | University of Pennsylvania

MARCH 23, 2017 | Grand Rounds in Psychiatry, Steven Sharfstein: "The Case for Caring Coercion" | The University of Pennsylvania

FEBRUARY 8, 2017 | Ground Rounds in Psychiatry, Dominic Sisti: "Bioethics Behind Bars: Addressing the Mental Health Care Crisis in Jails and Prisons" | Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine

DECEMBER 21, 2016 | Research Seminar in Population Health, Dominic Sisti: "Bioethics Behind Bars: Ethical Challenges in Jail and Prision Mental Health Care" | NYU Langone School of Medicine

APRIL 21, 2016 | Grand Rounds in Psychiatry: Giving Aslyum? Ethical Issues in Long-Term Psychiatric Care | The University of Pennsylvania

JANUARY 21, 2016  | Giving Asylum? The Ethics of Long-Term Care for People with Severe Mental Illness | The Institute of Living, Hartford Hospital | Hartford, CT

JULY 22, 2015 | A Debate on Treating Mental Illness: Should We Bring Back Asylums? | The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco |  Listen


Bioethics Certificate Program


Each resident will have a primary mentor. Faculty Champion: Dominic Sisti | Resident Champions: Elaine Xu and Erika Sims | Additional mentorship referrals may be made based on the resident’s needs.


Required attendance at 90% of the ethics didactics, with makeup sessions if missed. Reading as it pertains to research subject will be necessary and reviewed with mentor.

Experiential Learning

Research experience is required in the form of a researching a behavioral health care ethics topic or contributing to an ethics research project. Utilization of elective time for research experience is optional, though not required. Individual schedules will be discussed based on resident needs and interest as amount of time required will differ based on specific interests.

Scholarly Pursuit

Significant contribution to a publication on an ethics topic. Residents will lead one project, with mentorship, and will aim to submit a manuscript for publication by December of PGY-4 year. Present research at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Institute for Psychiatric Services, or another appropriate professional meeting. Optional: Presentation at brain forum or other didactic experience within the residency.



More Info