Stephen Hanson

Associate Professor of Philosophy, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine, School of Medicine, Core faculty member, Interdisciplinary MA in Bioethics & Medical Humanities


Prof. Hanson teaches and publishes in the areas of theories of medical ethics, clinical ethics, and end-of-life care and death and dying. Prior to appointment, Prof. Hanson completed two fellowships at UofL: the Crown Life Fellowship in Bioethics, Institute of Bioethics, Health Policy, and Law from 2006-7, and a Gheens Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Bioethics the previous year.

Prof. Hanson has difficulty saying “no” to work, and consequently is a member of UofL’s Institutional Review Boards, vice chair of the ethics committee at UofL Hospital, and is one of the founding faculty members of UofL’s Interdisciplinary MA program in Bioethics and Medical Humanities. He also has an appointment in the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine’s Division of Medical Humanism & Ethics, which has allowed him to round with residents and learn a lot about clinical life outside of the remarkable ethics cases. He has given single-class lectures in “Ethics and…” for Bioengineering, Public Health, and Dentistry, and has taught multiple didactics and small groups in the ethics portion of the School of Medicine’s Introduction to Clinical Medicine courses. He has also developed a relationship with the Kornhauser Medical Library and has given talks in connection with the library on research ethics in connection with the traveling Frankenstein exhibit (conclusion: Victor Frankenstein needed an IRB!), preventive ethics in disasters, and publication ethics with regard to immorally derived data.

A serendipitous thought by one of the Geriatrics faculty led to a valuable collaboration with the Palliative Care Fellowship in the hospital and with the recently formed palliative care practice there. In addition to working with the fellowship program as a faculty member, Prof. Hanson has also been able to learn from and occasionally assist on their many ethically interesting and challenging cases.

These opportunities, begun in his clinical ethics fellowships and continued since, have allowed Prof. Hanson to gain valuable clinical experience that has really changed how he views medical ethics. This leads philosophers, a community in which atheists can happily create arguments for the existence of God and in which otherwise apparently sane people can argue that it is quite possible that nothing actually exists and then go to lunch, to sometimes look askance at him, as he seems to “care” what the “practical results” of the “theories he espouses” would be.