About Us

A Brief History

In 1983, with generous support from Dorothy J. MacLean and the MacLean family, the University of Chicago established the nation’s first program devoted to clinical medical ethics. Dr. Mark Siegler was appointed its founding director. The MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics was pivotal in establishing and expanding the field of clinical medical ethics. It did this through its pioneering program in ethics fellowship training; its foundational role in ethics consultation; its close involvement in research and the protection of human subjects through an innovative concept of “research ethics consultation;” and by encouraging scholarly research and publication in clinical medical ethics. The center also encouraged the “empirical turn” in bioethics scholarship, an approach that uses clinical epidemiology, health services research, and decision science techniques to study ethical matters in clinical practice. The Center’s current and former faculty and fellows have published more than 210 books on topics related to medicine and medical ethics.


For over 35 years, the MacLean Center has directed and sponsored programs form faculty and students at the University of Chicago. Since 1984, The Interdisciplinary Lecture Series has organized weekly meetings throughout the academic year to provide a sustainable interdisciplinary forum on issues in medicine and medical ethics. Additionally, every November, the MacLean Center hosts the Dorothy J. MacLean Fellows Conference, which draws speakers and audiences from a wide range of disciplines.


Since 1981, the MacLean Center’s internationally renowned medical ethics fellowship program has graduated more than 500 fellows, many of whom hold endowed professorships and direct clinical ethics programs in the United States, Canada, Europe, and China. Current and former fellows have published more than 175 books in the field. Although most fellows have been physicians, the Center’s fellowship program has also trained nurses, social workers, legal scholars, theologians, social scientists and philosophers.