Faculty Scholars Program

Mara Buchbinder, PhD

Class of 2018
  • Professor and Vice Chair of Social Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Scholar Project

Mara Buchbinder, Ph.D. is Professor and Vice Chair of Social Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at UNC – Chapel Hill, as well as core faculty in the UNC Center for Bioethics. Dr. Buchbinder is a medical anthropologist with broad interests in cultures of health, illness, and medicine in the United States. Her recent work focuses on how patients, families, and healthcare providers navigate social and ethical challenges resulting from changes in medical technology, law, and health policy. Dr. Buchbinder is the author of Saving Babies? The Consequences of Newborn Genetic Screening (with Stefan Timmermans, 2013, University of Chicago Press) All in Your Head: Making Sense of Pediatric Pain (2015, University of California Press), and Scripting Death: Stories of Assisted Dying in America (2021, University of California Press), and the editor of Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: Bridging Perspectives for New Conversations (with Michele Rivkin-Fish and Rebecca Walker, 2016, UNC Press). In 2017, she received a Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty at UNC – Chapel Hill. In 2019, she received the Polgar Prize from the Society for Medical Anthropology for the best published paper in the previous year’s volume of Medical Anthropology Quarterly. The prizewinning article can be accessed here: https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/maq.12468 

For more information, visit: https://www.med.unc.edu/socialmed/directory/mara-buchbinder/

Clinical Ethics, Communication, and Physician Aid-in-Dying

Grant Cycle: 2014 - 2015

Legislative support for physician aid-in-dying in the United States has risen steadily in recent years. Much of the bioethical scholarship on this topic has focused on whether it is ethically permissible. Yet once physician aid-in-dying is legal, new ethical questions emerge concerning clinical communication and the patient-provider relationship. This project carries out ethnographic research in Vermont, which legalized physician aid-in-dying in 2013, to:

  1. document how terminally ill patients, family members and caregivers, healthcare providers, and policy stakeholders have responded and adapted to the legalization of physician aid-in-dying;
  2. identify and describe the ethical challenges that physician aid-in-dying raises for clinical communication about end-of-life care and the patient-provider relationship; and
  3. develop an empirically grounded ethical framework for patient-provider communication about physician aid-in-dying, and disseminate it to physicians, professional organizations, and patient advocacy groups.

By incorporating qualitative perspectives on the everyday realities of end-of-life care into ethical analysis, Prof. Buchbinder expects to generate novel insights into the ethical implications of physician aid-in-dying and its impact on clinical communication and the patient-provider relationship.


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