Bioethics Program Director Jonathan Marks Named a Hastings Center Fellow

Bioethics Program Director Jonathan Marks Named a Hastings Center Fellow

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Bioethics Program Director Jonathan H. Marks has been named a fellow by the Hastings Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to informing policy, practice and knowledge of ethical issues in health, science and technology.

Marks, professor of bioethics, humanities, law and philosophy, is among 13 new Hastings Center fellows recognized this year for their work advancing scholarship and public understanding of complex ethical issues in health, health care, life sciences research and the environment.

The fellowship is a lifelong honor that acknowledges “individuals of outstanding accomplishment" whose work demonstrates "uncommon insight and impact in areas of critical concern,” according to the Hastings Center, which was founded in 1969 and publishes two journals, Hastings Center Report and Ethics & Human Research.

“I’m truly honored to join the ranks of such an esteemed group of scholars and practitioners from across the globe,” Marks said. “I’m also very grateful for this recognition of my efforts to push the boundaries of the discipline, and to promote human rights and public health ethics. I truly hope this award will help broaden and deepen the impact of my work.”

Besides leading the Bioethics Program, Marks is an affiliate faculty member in the Rock Ethics InstituteDepartment of PhilosophyPenn State LawSchool of International AffairsHuck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and the Humanities Department in the College of Medicine. He’s also a barrister and human rights lawyer at London-based Matrix Chambers.

Marks’ recent scholarship has focused on corporate influence in medicine, nutrition and public health, particularly public-private partnerships and other collaborations with corporations responsible for exacerbating the opioid crisis and noncommunicable diseases associated with obesity. In addition, he’s examined undocumented patients’ lack of access to health care; the public health, ethical and policy implications of hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”); the ethics of applying behavioral economics in health policy; professional ethics and human rights in detention and interrogation; and the ethical implications of neuroscience in national security.

“If you ask me what my life’s mission is, it’s to help us create institutions, organizations and societies that promote the kinds of ethical behaviors that we would like to see in ourselves and others,” he said. “I’m not an academic who just speaks to his fellow academics, but someone who tries to speak to as large an audience as possible.”

Penn State Bioethics Program Director Jonathan H. Marks was among the presenters at the recent TEDxPSU "On the Horizon" conference.  Credit: TEDxPSU . All Rights Reserved.

Marks is author of “The Perils of Partnership: Industry Influence, Institutional Integrity, and Public Health” (Oxford University Press, 2019), which was a finalist for the North American Society for Social Philosophy Book Award. A critical assessment of corporate influence in public health, the book expanded on Marks’ 2017 TED talk, “In Praise of Conflict,” which has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times.

Meanwhile, his writing has appeared in numerous high-profile publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Nation, The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, and American Journal of Bioethics.

Marks’ article, “Trust in Crises and Crises in Trust,” was published in a recent special issue of the Hastings Center Report. In it, he examines how corporations, governments, nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations routinely fail during times of crisis.

In so many cases, Marks said, the institution in question sought to deny or downplay the problem, deflect responsibility, or employ other tactics out of what he calls “the crisis playbook.”

As it happens, the subject also serves as the basis for his next book, as well as the talk he delivered at the recent TEDxPSU “On the Horizon” conference.

“These tactics — often the result of advice from public relations firms, crisis management groups and legal advisers — are not only ethically problematic, but they usually make things worse for the institution they are intended to protect,” said Marks, who’s working on another book about pandemic ethics and structural injustice. “I contend that ethicists have much to contribute to so-called ‘crisis management.’ If, instead of focusing primarily on bolstering trust, institutions work to restore their integrity and trustworthiness, they will not only handle crises in ways that are more ethical and more effective, but they also stand a better chance of avoiding crises in the first place.”

Before coming to Penn State, Marks was a Greenwall Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities. And he was previously the Edmond J. Safra Faculty Fellow in Ethics at Harvard University, where from 2009 to 2015 he participated in its Lab on Institutional Corruption. He also has participated as an expert on law, ethics and human rights in meetings of the World Health Organization, the National Academies, the U.S. Defense Health Board and the Royal Society.


Click here for more information on Marks’ work.


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By Josh McAuliffe

Jonathan Marks

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