Rebecca Susan Dresser

Daniel Noyes Kirby Professor of Law; Professor of Ethics in Medicine


B.A., 1973, Indiana University-Bloomington
M.S., 1975, Indiana University-Bloomington
J.D.,1979, Harvard University

Curriculum Vitae




Bev Owens - (314) 935-6482

Phone / Email

Phone: (314) 935-8769
Email: dresser@wustl.edu 


Anheuser-Busch Hall, Room 562

Courses Taught

Biomedical Research Law and Policy Seminar
Bioethics and Law
Genetics Law and Policy Seminar 
Regulating Drugs and Other Medical Products


Professor Rebecca Dresser is an expert in biomedical ethics. She holds a joint appointment with Washington University School of Medicine, teaching law and medical students about legal and ethical issues in end-of-life care, biomedical research, genetics, assisted reproduction, and related topics. She has written extensively in her field and is the co-author of a casebook on bioethics and law and a book on the ethical treatment of animals. She is also the author of a book on patient advocacy and research ethics. In addition to her teaching, research, and scholarship, she is on the advisory or editorial boards of several prestigious journals devoted to bioethics. A past member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, she currently sits on the Washington University Medical Center Institutional Review Board, as well as its Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee. Professor Dresser is a prolific speaker and panelist at national and international symposia, conferences, and workshops on such topics as bioethics and cancer; advance treatment directives; stem cell research; biomedical research policy; and human cloning. Before becoming a law professor, she clerked for the Hon. James E. Doyle, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, and held a postdoctoral fellowship in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Representative Publications

Forthcoming Scholarship

  • "Silent Partners: Human Subjects and Research Ethics," Oxford University Press (forthcoming)

Selected Recent Articles

  • "A Fate Worse Than Death? How Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease Could Affect End-of-Life Choices," Indiana Health Law Review 12:651-69, 2015.
  • "Autonomy and Its Limits in End-of-Life Law," in Oxford Handbook of U.S. Healthcare Law, I. G. Cohen, A. Hoffman & W. Sage eds., Oxford University Press, published online July 2015. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199366521.013.19.
  • "What Subjects Teach: The Everyday Ethics of Human Research," 50 Wake Forest Law Review 301 (2015) [SSRN]
  • "The 'Right to Try' Investigational Drugs: Science and Stories in the Access Debate," 50 University of Texas Law Review 1631 (2015) [SSRN]
  • Malignant: Medical Ethicists Confront Cancer, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012 (editor and contributor).
  • "Public Preferences and the Challenge to Genetic Research Policy," Journal of Law and the Biosciences 52 (2014) Article 
  • "Pre-Emptive Suicide, Precedent Autonomy and Preclinical Alzheimer Disease," Journal of Medical Ethics, published online first: doi10.1136/medethics-2013-101615.
  • "Drug Compounding, Drug Safety, and the First Amendment," Hastings Center Report, 43:9-10, March-April 2013.
  • "Alive and Well: The Research Imperative," Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 40:915-21, Winter 2012.
  • "Aligning Regulations and Ethics in Human Research," Science, 337:527-28, August 3, 2012.