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Meet Doctor Whitney

Simon Whitney, MD, JD is a family physician and ethicist. He taught at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, where he held the William O'Donnell and Regina O'Donnell Chair in Family Medicine, for twenty-two years. He is retired from the practice of medicine but continues to publish and teach about medical ethics.


Dr. Whitney has studied the Institutional Review Board system, including its origins, its triumphs, and its failures, since 2007. He has spoken at national and international conferences and published in professional journals including Pediatrics, Annals of Internal Medicine, Risk Management, and the American Journal of Bioethics. 


In 2023, he published From Oversight to Overkill: Inside the Broken System That Blocks Medical Breakthroughs—And How We Can Fix It (Rivertowns Books). This book brings to life how scientists struggle with excessive oversight, how the process delays cures that we all need, and what we should do about it.


In 2015, he published Balanced Ethics Review: A Guide for the Institutional Review Board Member (Springer). IRBs have long been seen as having a single purpose: to protect research subjects from abuse. This is the first manual to show how IRBs can fulfill their second, unspoken purpose: to allow scientists to save lives without unnecessary bureaucratic hindrances.


He has also published articles about breaking bad news to cancer patients, about how patients and doctors should share in medical decision making, and other topics in medical ethics.



BA, Yale University, 1974

MD, New York University, 1979

Family Medicine Residency, Swedish Hospital, Seattle, 1982

Board certified in family medicine, 1982

JD with distinction, Stanford Law School, 1998

Fellowship in Biomedical Ethics, Stanford, completed 1999



Family doctor, Snohomish, WA, 1982 – 1994

Family doctor and ethics faculty member, Baylor College of Medicine, 1999 – 2022

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