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Dominic A. Sisti, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy; Assistant Professor of Psychiatry; Director, The Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care
  • Email: sistid@upenn.edu


Dominic A. Sisti, PhD is director of the Scattergood Program for the Applied Ethics of Behavioral Healthcare and assistant professor in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy. He holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Psychiatry.

Sisti's current research examines the ethical and philosophical dimensions of the concept of mental disorder, with a particular focus on personality disorders. He has written, taught, and presented papers on issues related to the philosophy and ethics of behavioral healthcare, clinical bioethics, biotechnology, and research ethics.

Sisti's writings on biomedical and behavioral healthcare ethics have appeared in JAMA, Nature Immunology, the Journal of Medical Ethics, and elsewhere. He is an editor of three books: Health, Disease, and Illness: Concepts in Medicine (with Caplan & McCartney, Georgetown University Press, 2004), The Case of Terri Schiavo: Ethics at the End of Life (with Caplan & McCartney, Prometheus Books, 2006), and Applied Ethics in Mental Healthcare (with Caplan & Rimon-Greenspan, The MIT Press, 2013).

In 2008, Sisti was an Edmund D. Pellegrino Fellow at the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University.  

Dr. Sisti's work has been funded by the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, the Leonard Davis Institute, the Dana Foundation, the Squire Family Foundation, the Jackson Laboratory, and the Center for Academic Integrity. 

Selected Publications

Dominic Sisti & Chethan Ramamurthy:

2015. "From Alienism to ACOs: Integrating Psychiatry, Again," Psychiatric Services, Ahead of Print: http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ps.201500400.

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, in press.

Anson J Koshy & Dominic A Sisti:

2015. "Assent as an ethical imperative in the treatment of ADHD." Journal of Medical Ethics, Online First doi:10.1136/medethics-2014-102166. 

Dominic A Sisti, Andrea G Segal, & Ezekiel J Emanuel

2015. "Expanding Long-term Care Options for Persons With Serious Mental Illness—Reply." JAMA 313(17): 1757-1758.

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.

Dominic Sisti, Michael Young, & Arthur Caplan:

2013. "Defining Mental Illnesses: Can Values and Objectivity Get Along?" BMC Psychiatry, 13:346.

Michael Young, Dominic Sisti, Hila Rimon-Greenspan, Jason Schwartz, & Arthur Caplan:

2012. "Immune to Addiction: The Ethical Dimensions of Vaccines Against Substance Abuse." Nature Immunology, 13(6):521-524.

Cynthia Baum-Baicker & Dominic Sisti:

2012.  "Clinical Wisdom in Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: A Philosophical and Qualitative Analysis." The Journal of Clinical Ethics, 23(1):13-27

Dominic Sisti & Arthur L. Caplan:

2012. "Accommodation without Exculpation: The Ethical and Legal Paradoxes of Borderline Personality Disorder." Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 40: 75-92


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.