Paul Cummins

Assistant Professor
Paul  Cummins Headshot


Paul J. Cummins is a philosophically trained bioethicist with a strong record of scholarship and innovation in bioethics. He is the PI on an NEH Connections grant to develop a minor in Bioethics at Clarkson University, and a Co-PI on the NIH Fogarty International Center-sponsored Caribbean Research Ethics Education Initiative grant to foster research ethics in the low- and middle-income countries in the English- and Spanish-speaking Caribbean basin.  Prof. Cummins' scholarship on bioethics education, clinical ethics, conscientious objection, and environmental bioethics has appeared in top 20 journals.

Education Background

Philosophy PhD - The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Philosophy MSc - The University of Edinburgh
Ethics Fellowship - Bioethics Program,Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Philosophy BA - Vassar College


Research Assistant Professor Department of Bioethics Clarkson University, 2020-Present
Assistant Professor Department of Medical Education,Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2015-Present
Lecturer Department of Philosophy,Lehman College, City University of New York, 2015

Courses Taught

  • BIE535 - Medicine and Social Justice
  • BIE555 - Research Ethics I
  • BIE563 - Pediatric Ethics
  • BIE574 - Contemporary Issues in Bioethics
  • BIE630/635/640 - Masters Project Course


Leader, Environmental Bioethics Affinity Group, American Society for Bioethics and Humanities Member, Climate Smart Taskforce, Philipstown, NY Public Member, American Occupational Therapy Association Ethics Appeal Panel Public Member, Institutional Review Board, LifeBridge Health, Baltimore, MD

Research Interests

  • Bioethics Education
  • Conscientious Objection
  • Environmental Bioethics
  • Research Ethics

Current research

The NIH Fogarty International Center R25 grant, The Caribbean Research Ethics Education Initiative (CREEi), aims to foster research ethics capacity in the Spanish- and English-speaking Caribbean through the development of two independent Master’s degree programs in Mexico and Grenada. The grant will pilot three 15-student cohorts through Master’s degree programs, first at Clarkson, and then at the grant partners’ institutions, the Autonomous University of Queretaro and Saint George’s University. This unique program will conduct simultaneous bilingual education to its mixed cohorts of Spanish- and English-speaking students. This plan should enhance the educational experience of the students through cross-cultural understanding and serve as a model for institutions that seek to expand access to education bypassing language requirements.

At present, I am also engaged in a collaborative research project with Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, and Stony Brook University’s Department of Psychology on parental attitudes to adolescent participation in research without parental permission. Specifically, we intend to compare their attitudes about their children’s decision-making about participating in low to high risk non-research activities with research activities. We presented preliminary results at the recent World Congress of Bioethics.

I also continue to work on two other projects.

The question of whether it is ethical for medical professionals to engage in conscientious objection continues to be a major source of disagreement in bioethics. I have argued that part of the reason for this is there is a lack of clarity about what constitutes conscientious objection. I have developed a philosophical account of conscientious objection and have argued that a consequence of this account is that we are asking the wrong ethical question; instead we should be asking what constitutes an ethical response to a claim of conscientious objection. I continue to work on applying this perspective.

Anthropogenic climate change is a catastrophe that humans are not working to mitigate sufficiently. It will have enormous negative affects to human health, and yet it is an area of research that bioethics mostly neglects. I have argued anthropogenic climate change represents a fact that requires reconsideration of central ethical concepts in bioethics. The central ethical concepts of bioethics are in jeopardy because humanities scholars interpret anthropogenic climate change as refuting central beliefs in the liberal tradition. As bioethics continues to become a more inclusive interdisciplinary field, bioethics will have to engage with these perspectives.


AKA-279394-21                 PD:  Paul J. Cummins                        08/01/2021-03/31/2023
Title:  Developing a Bioethics Minor
National Endowment for the Humanities
Role:  Project Director

7R25TW009731-08                 PI:  MacPherson, Cheryl                01/02/2020-31/01/2024
NIH/Fogarty International Center                                                
Role:  Co-PI


  • 2022 Moving Intensive Onsite Courses Online: Responding to COVID-19 Educational Disruption. International Journal of Ethics Education. Co-author with Jane Oppenlander, Darshini V. Suresh, and Ellen Tobin-Ballato. Forthcoming.
  • 2021 Enhancing COVID-19 vaccination coverage using financial incentives: arguments to help health providers counterbalance erroneous claims. Epidemiology and Health. Co-author with Jelena Dotlic et la. Online first.  
  • 2021 Ethics education in clinical pastoral education: prevalence and types. Journal of Health. Care Chaplaincy. Co-author with David Fleenor, et al.
  • 2021 “Medical Ethics” and “Decisional Capacity” subsections, chapter 1, “Approach to the Clinical Encounter” in Hoffman RM, Szilagyi PG, Soriano RP, Bickley LS. Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking. Thirteenth edition. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.
  • 2019 Conscientious Objection and Physician-Employees. HEC Forum.
  • 2019 “If an acute event occurs, what should we do?” Diverse ethical approaches to decision- making in the ICU. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 22(3): 475-486. Co-author with F. Nicoli, J. A. Raho, R. Portz,, G. Minoja, and M. Picozzi.
  • 2018 Justice and Respect for Autonomy: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Organ Transplants. The Journal of Clinical Ethics. 29(4): 305-312. Co-author with Fedrico Nicoli.
  • 2018 The Anthropocene: The End of Humanism in Bioethics? Ethics, Medicine, and Public Health. 6, 105-114.
  • 2017 TBI and NFL Culture: Can Players Autonomously Refuse Biometric Monitoring? American Journal of Bioethics. 17(1), 75-77.
  • 2015 Improving Third Year Medical Students’ Competency in Clinical Moral Reasoning: Two Interventions to a Curriculum. AJOB Empirical Bioethics. 7(3), 140-148. Co-author with Katherine J. Mendis.
  • 2013 A Model for the Assessment of Medical Students’ Competency in Medical Ethics. AJOB Primary Research 4(4), 68-83. Co-author with Amanda Favia and Lily Frank, et al.
  • 2012 Potential and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: an International Journal 3(4), 263-274.



Office Phone Number: 518/631-9862

Office Location: Off-Site (CRC)

Clarkson Box Number: Capital Region Campus

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