Program for Surgical Ethics

The Program for Surgical Ethics, housed within the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society in collaboration with the Section of Surgical Sciences, provides the collaborative infrastructure for normative and empirical investigations into ethical issues pertaining to surgical patient care.

Examining Surgical Ethics is important, particularly now, because of the:

  • Advances in surgical procedures
  • Technological innovations (i.e., robotics, AI)
  • Persistence of disparities in access to surgery and in surgical outcomes
  • Continued growth of end-stage organ failure and need for transplantation
  • The burden of moral distress and burnout on the surgical workforce

Analysis of ethical issues is key to improving more equitable, transparent, access and outcomes of surgical care.


Our mission is to support providers in surgery and allied specialties at VUMC in learning about ethical issues in surgery, researching surgical ethics issues, and evaluating ethically-charged surgical practices in order to deliver surgical care in an ethically sound manner.


To improve quality surgical care by fostering mindful reflection on the context of surgical care.


Our program offers the VUMC community multiple opportunities to get engaged in surgical ethics:

  • Education
  • Research
  • Application

By engaging in our Program, we aim to improve surgical care, patient outcomes, and healthcare workforce well-being through:

  • Setting realistic expectations about surgery
  • Enhancing patient-provider communication
  • Increasing community engagement
  • Increasing patient satisfaction


  • We hold quarterly surgical ethics research seminars through the Center for Biomedical Ethics faculty research program.
  • We offer seminars and lecture series on conducting research on empirical ethics for pre- or post-doctoral trainees
  • Dr. Allan Peetz leads a General Surgery Ethics M&M on months with fifth Wednesdays at 6am in Light Hall.
  • and lecture series

If you would like to request presentations in your Department or Division, please email us.

Surgical Ethics Program Faculty

Brian C. Drolet, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery and Biomedical Informatics
Research Interests: Ethics Education
Elisa J. Gordon

Elisa J. Gordon, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Professor, Department of Surgery Research
Director, Surgical Outcomes Research
Director, Transplant Outcomes Research
Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society
Research interests: Transplant Ethics, Informed Consent, Surgical Innovations


Patrick Kelly

Patrick David Kelly, M.D., M.S.C.I.

Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Department of Neurological Surgery
Clinical Research Interests:Pituitary lesions, malignant brain tumors,acoustic neuromas,and stereotactic radiosurgery


Alexander Langerman, M.D., S.M., F.A.C.S.

Associate Professor Department of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery
Associate Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences
Director of Surgical Ethics Program
Course Director Foundations of Clinical Care Ethics Curriculum
Research Interests: Surgical Transparency, Informed Consent, Data collection in the Operating Room, Overlapping Surgery

Mayur B. Patel, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S., F.C.C.M.

Associate Professor (with Tenure) of Surgery, Neurosurgery, and Hearing & Speech Sciences
Research Interests: Palliative Care Ethics

Allan Byron Peetz, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Surgery Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care
Research Interests: Trauma Ethics