Professor Patricia King Receives Honorary Degree from Harvard

May 30, 2014 —

Patricia “Pat” King, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Medicine, Ethics and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, was awarded the honorary degree of doctor of laws yesterday at Harvard University’s 363rd commencement. King, who received her J.D. from Harvard, is a pioneer in the field of bioethics. 

King was one of an impressive group being celebrated at Harvard. Former President George H.W. Bush, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (the commencement speaker), noted Chilean author Isabel Allende and the singer Aretha Franklin also received honorary degrees. 

“We are thrilled that Pat has been honored by her alma mater,” said Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor. “She has introduced countless students to some of the most profound bioethical issues of the day. Her service to the nation and her presence on committees convened to investigate some of the world’s most vexing biomedical issues have done us all proud. We offer her our heartfelt congratulations.”

King, who was a fellow of the Harvard Corporation from 2005 to 2013, was deputy director of the Office of Civil Rights of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when it was dealing with the controversy over the infamous Tuskegee Experiment, a Public Health Service study of syphilis in black men in Alabama. The experiment lasted from 1932-1972 — a time period that included the invention of penicillin, which was withheld from the infected men. She served on the first national commission established to recommend ways to protect human subjects.

A professor at Georgetown Law since 1973, King teaches family law courses and a seminar on bioethics and the law. King has been teaching the latter since the 1980s, covering such topics as stem-cell research, genetic testing and more. “We go to the core,” King once said, describing the seminar and its subject matter. “That’s what bioethics does — we go to the core of who we are as human beings.”

King is the co-author of Cases and Materials on Law, Science and Medicine. She is a member of the American Law Institute and the Institute of Medicine and is a fellow of the Hastings Center. She is a longtime member of the board of trustees of Wheaton College, her undergraduate alma mater. King is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Hygiene and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

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