Current Research Projects

Current Research Projects

Doctors Who Torture: Accountability Project Doctors Who Torture: Accountability Project

Ongoing - The purpose of this study conducted by Steven Miles, MD is to show and promote progress in encouraging physicians, courts, and medical licensing boards to be more active in the movement to end torture.

Physician complicity with torture can take many forms. 

  • Many police, prison, and military physicians do not report that they have seen a prisoner or patient who has been tortured by a government official.  Such reporting may be done to the government in some cases or to human rights organizations when that is not possible.
  • Many conceal torture by failing to recording complaints or signs of torture on medical reports or death certificates. 
  • Some actively participate in the torture of prisoners.

Every torturing regime relies on the active or passive complicity of physicians in these acts. Physician complicity with torture is not possible without the complicity of courts and silent medical licensing boards and medical professional organizations. There are many reasons why physicians betray medical ethics with regard to torture. Some do so out of fear. Some do so for a paycheck or to obey orders. Some favor torture. Some see no conflict between the politics and practices of a torturing regime and the ethics of medicine.

Physician complicity with torture is facilitated by the fact that few medical licensing boards, medical associations or courts hold physicians accountable for torture.  Accountability educates physicians and deters torture. 

This study has three aims:

  1. To provide texts of major standards by international medical groups and by the United Nations that can be used in Medical Licensing Board Hearings or Criminal Trials as standards for holding physicians accountable for complicity with torture.
  2. To identify countries where physicians have assisted torture at any time after World War II. This date was chosen for three reasons.  First, the Nazi Doctors Trial clearly affirmed that the laws of criminal nations do not erase medical ethics. Second, at the end of World War II, national medical associations convened the World Medical Association to create standards for physicians’ behavior when governments tortured. Third, the doctors who tortured after World War II are alive.
  3. To show how some countries or international courts have held doctors accountable for torture. These countries provide models for countries that do not hold doctors accountable for torture.


The principal investigator is Dr. Steven H. Miles, University of Minnesota Medical School; Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota; United States Center for Victims and Torture.

John Song, MDMedical students’ knowledge and attitudes toward the Affordable Care Act and other health care policy issues

Ongoing - Through this nationwide survey study, John Song, MD, MPH, MAT, and his co-conductors measure medical students’ knowledge and attitudes towards important health care policy issues. As future physicians, these students will play an increasingly significant role in the implementation of the new national health care law, as well as future reform efforts. Whether reform efforts are successful depends, in part, on the willingness of physicians to engage in the reform process.

While data has been collected, analyses are ongoing. The first publication from this study has been published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.


  • The principal investigator is Tyler Winkelman, MD, Robert Wood Johnson Fellow, University of Michigan.
  • Derek Donovan, Medical Student, University of Arizona College of Medicine;
  • John Song, MD, MPH, MAT, Internal Medicine and Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota;
  • Tyler Winkelman, MD, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, University of Minnesota;
  • Navjyot Vidwan, MD, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Louisville;
  • Elizabeth Blodgett, MHPA, Health Policy and Management, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill;
  • Sandi Moutsios, MD, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University;
  • Ryan Antiel, MD, MA, General Surgery, Mayo Clinic;
  • Joseph Cofrancesco Jr., MD, MPH, FACP, Institute for Excellence in Education, Johns Hopkins University;
  • Meredith Niess, MD, MPH, General Internal Medicine, University of Colorado – Denver;
  • Mark Earnest, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, University of Colorado – Denver;
  • Mia Mallory, MD, Associate Dean – Office of Diversity and Inclusion, University of Cincinnati;
  • Lisa Lehmann, MD, PhD, MSc, Internal Medicine and Medical Ethics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital;
  • Paul Gorman, MD, Associate Professor, Oregon Health & Science University.

Respite care and homelessness

Ongoing – This trial compares respite care to no respite care and its impact on health related quality of life and health care utilization. This study, performed in collaboration with Exodus House, examines the effects of respite care on the quality of life as well as the future health care utilization of homeless individuals who received respite care after hospitalization. 

The study aims to:

  • Measure a health related quality of life using the SF-36 and health care utilization using claims data. 


  • Dawn Petroskas, PhD, Director, Hennepin County Health Care for the Homeless; former Researcher, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota;
  • Cynthia Davey, MS, Associate Director and Senior Research Fellow, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of Minnesota;
  • John Song, MD, MPH, MAT, Internal Medicine and Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota. 

Moral distress in trainees working in resource poor locales

Ongoing - A mixed methods investigation of primary care residents' moral distress in working abroad with inadequate resources.  This is a mixed methods investigation examining whether residents suffer from moral distress while working in developing nations, and, if so, what are the situations that most cause this distress.  


  • Benjamin Trappey, MD, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Medical School;
  • John Song, MD, MPH, MAT, Internal Medicine and Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota.