• Sisti

Dominic A. Sisti, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics & Health Policy; Director, The Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care; Assistant Professor of Psychiatry (secondary appointment); Assistant Professor of Philosophy (secondary appointment)
  • Email: sistid@upenn.edu


Dominic Sisti, PhD is director of the Scattergood Program for the Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care and assistant professor in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds secondary appointments in the Department of Psychiatry, where he directs the ethics curriculum in the residency program, and the Department of Philosophy.

Dr. Sisti's research examines the ethics of mental health care services and policies, including long-term psychiatric care for inviduals with serious mental illness and ethical challenges in correctional mental health care.  He also studies how mental disorders are defined and categorized with a focus on personality disorders. Dr. Sisti teaches a graduate seminar on ethics in behavioral health care and, for the past six years, he has organized the ethics track for the American Psychiatric Association's Annual Meeting.

Dr. Sisti's writings have appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as JAMA, Psychiatric Services, and the Journal of Medical Ethics, and in popular media outlets such as the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Slate. He is editor of three books: Health, Disease, and Illness: Concepts in Medicine (with Arthur Caplan & James McCartney, Georgetown University Press, 2004), The Case of Terri Schiavo: Ethics at the End of Life (with Arthur Caplan & James McCartney, Prometheus Books, 2006), and Applied Ethics in Mental Healthcare (with Arthur Caplan & Hila Rimon-Greenspan, The MIT Press, 2013).

Dominic received his bachelor's degree in biology from Villanova University, a master of bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania, and his doctorate in philosophy from Michigan State University.   Dr. Sisti was an Edmund Pellegrino Fellow at the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University. His research has been funded by the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, the Leonard Davis Institute, and the Dana Foundation. 

Selected Publications

Andrea Segal & Dominic Sisti:

2016. " 'Restricted Community Members': Research Protections and Opportunities for Individuals Committed to Assisted Outpatient Treatment" Psychiatric Services, In Advance, October 17.

Michelle Joy, Timothy Clement, & Dominic Sisti:

2016. "The Ethics of Behavioral Health Information Technology: Frequent Flyer Icons and Implicit Bias," JAMA, 2016;316(15):1539-1540

Dominic Sisti & Monica Calkins:

2016. "Psychosis Risk: What Is It and How Should We Talk About It?" AMA Journal of Ethics, 18(6): 624-632.

Dominic Sisti & Chethan Ramamurthy:

2015. "From Alienism to ACOs: Integrating Psychiatry, Again," Psychiatric Services, 67(4): 372-374

Dominic Sisti, Andrea Segal, Andrew Siegel, Rebecca Johnson, & John Gunderson:

2015. "Diagnosing, Disclosing, and Documenting Borderline Personality Disorder: A Survey of Psychiatrists' Practices," Journal of Personality Disorders, Ahead of Print.

Rebecca Johnson, Jonathan Lukens, Jonathan Kole, & Dominic Sisti:

2015. "Views about Responsibility for Alcohol Addiction and Negative Evaluations of Naltrexone."  Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 10:10  doi:10.1186/s13011-015-0004-7.

Dominic Sisti & Rebecca Johnson:

2015. "Revision and Representation: The Controversial Case of DSM-5." Public Affairs Quarterly, 29(1):76-108.

Dominic Sisti, Andrea Segal, & Ezekiel Emanuel:

2015. "Improving Long-term Psychiatric Care: Bring Back the Asylum." JAMA 313(3):243-244.

Jonathan Moreno & Dominic Sisti:

2014. "Biomedical Research Ethics: Landmark Cases, Scandals, and Conceptual Shifts" in The Routledge Companion to BioethicsJohn Arras, Rebecca Kukla, Elizabeth Fenton, eds. New York: Routledge.

Rebecca Johnson, Govind Persad, & Dominic Sisti:

2014.  “The Tarasoff Rule: The Implications of Inter-State Variation & Gaps in Professional Training.” The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 42:4:469-477

Dominic Sisti:

2014. "Naturalism & The Social Model of Disability: Allied or Antithetical?" Journal of Medical Ethics, [Open Access: doi:10.1136/medethics-2014-102127].

Dominic Sisti, Andrea Segal, & Michael Thase:

2014. "Proceed With Caution: Off-Label Ketamine Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder," Current Psychiatry Reports, 16:527.

Andrew Siegel, Dominic Sisti, & Arthur Caplan: 

2014. "Pediatric Euthanasia in Belgium: Disturbing Developments," JAMA 311(19):1963-1964.


Michigan State University, PhD, Philosophy

University of Pennsylvania, MBE, Bioethics  

Villanova University, BS, Biology


About the ScattergoodEthics Program

The Scattergood Program for the Applied Ethics of Behavioral Healthcare is dedicated to applied research and scholarship in all areas of behavioral healthcare ethics.


Instructor: Dominic Sisti

Mental healthcare—which includes but is not limited to psychiatry, psychology, and clinical social work—is an especially ethically fraught subdiscipline of the larger medical enterprise. Issues range from garden-variety problems related to informed consent, patient capacity, and clinical professionalism to novel issues related to involuntary treatment, research on mentally ill persons, questions about free will and nosological categories. This course will present a survey of these ethical issues by first introducing foundational concepts from ethical theory and the philosophy of psychiatry. Students will be expected to become conversant in several bioethical approaches and methods and be able to use them to critically examine both historical and contemporary questions in mental healthcare and research.