Robert Klitzman

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Robert Klitzman (born July 1, 1958) is an American psychiatrist and bioethicist.


Early life[edit]

Robert Klitzman was born on July 1, 1958. He attended Princeton University, where he studied with Clifford Geertz. He then worked for Dr. Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, who had received the Nobel Prize for work on Kuru, a prion disease. Klitzman then conducted field research on Kuru in Papua New Guinea.[1]

He attended Yale Medical School, and completed his medical internship and psychiatric residency at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic and what is now the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.


Klitzman is currently a professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.[2] He co-founded and for five years co-directed the Columbia University Center for Bioethics, is the director of the Masters in Bioethics program,[3] and the director of the Ethics and Policy Core of the HIV Center.[4]

He has published eight books and authored or co-authored over 100 journal articles and chapters on critical issues in bioethics including: genetics,[5] stem cells,[6] ethics of assisted reproductive technologies,[7] neuroethics,[8] HIV prevention,[9] recreational drug use,[10] research ethics,[11] and doctor-patient relationships.[12]

His research on the experiences of physicians when they become patients shed important light on ways of improving doctor-patient relationships.[13][14]

He has been widely cited as an authority on ethical issues concerning genetic testing for Huntington's disease,[15] breast cancer,[16] genetic discrimination,[17] medical privacy,[18] epidemics of HIV and prion diseases such as Kuru,[19] and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or "Mad Cow" disease),[20] death and dying,[21] stem cell research,[22] and spirituality and medicine.[23][24]

His books include When Doctors Become Patients,[25] A Year-Long Night: Tales of a Medical Internship, In a House of Dreams and Glass: Becoming a Psychiatrist, Being Positive: The Lives of Men and Women With HIV,[26] The Trembling Mountain: A Personal Account of Kuru, Cannibals, and Mad Cow Disease,[27] with Ronald Bayer, Mortal Secrets: Truth and Lies in the Age of AIDS,[28] which was a finalist for a 2004 Lambda Literary Award.,,[29] Am I My Genes?: Confronting Fate and Other Genetic Journeys, and The Ethics Police?: The Struggle to Make Human Research Safe.[30][31]

He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation,[32] the Russell Sage Foundation,[33] the Commonwealth Fund,[34] the Aaron Diamond Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation,[35] and served on the Department of Defense’s US Army Medical Research and Material Command Research Ethics Advisory Panel. He is a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association,[36] a member of the Empire State Stem Cell Commission,[37] HIV Prevention Trials Network,[38] and the Council on Foreign Relations,[39] and is a regular contributor to the New York Times[40][41] and CNN.[42]


  • Being Positive: The Lives of Men and Women With HIV (1997)[43]
  • The Trembling Mountain: A Personal Account of Kuru, Cannibals, and Mad Cow Disease (2001)[43]
  • Mortal Secrets: Truth and Lies in the Age of AIDS (with Ronald Bayer, 2005)[43]
  • When Doctors Become Patients (2007)[25][44]
  • In a House of Dreams and Glass: Becoming a Psychiatrist (2010)[45]
  • Am I My Genes? Confronting Fate and Family Secrets in the Age of Genetic Testing (2012)[46]
  • A Year-Long Night: Tales of a Medical Internship (2013)[45]
  • The Ethics Police?: The Struggle to Make Human Research Safe (2015)[47]


  1. ^ Klitzman, R., Alpers, M., Gajdusek, D.C. The natural incubation period of kuru and the episodes of transmission in three clusters of patients. Neuroepidemiology, 3: 3 20.
  2. ^ "Robert L. Klitzman | Our Faculty | Mailman School of Public Health". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  3. ^ Time: 6:00PM - 7:30PM. "Robert Klitzman | School of Continuing Education". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  4. ^ "Hiv Center". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  5. ^ Klitzman, R., Thorne, D., Williamson, J., Marder, K. The roles of family members, health care workers and others in decision-making processes about genetic testing among individuals at risk for Huntington’s disease. Genetics in Medicine, 9(6): 358-371.
  6. ^ Klitzman, R. The Use of Eggs and Embryos in Stem Cell Research. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 28(4): 336-344.
  7. ^ Klitzman, R., Zolovska, B., Folberth, W., Chung, W., Sauer, M., Appelbaum, P. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis on in vitro fertilization clinic websites: presentations of risks, benefits and other information. Fertility and Sterility. 92(4): 1276-1283.
  8. ^ Fisher, C.F., Chin, L., Klitzman, R. Defining Neuromarketing: Practices and Professional Challenges. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 18(4): 230-237.
  9. ^ Klitzman, R., Exner, T., Kirshenbaum, S.B., Remien, R., Ehrhardt, A.A., Kelly, J.A., Weinhardt, L.S., Catz, S. Johnson, M.O., Morin, S.F., Rotheram-Borus, M.J., Lightfoot, M., & Charlesbois, E. It’s not just what you say: Relationships of HIV disclosure and risk reduction among MSM in the post-HAART era. AIDS Care, 19(6): 749-756.
  10. ^ Klitzman, R., Pope, HG, Hudson, J. MDMA (“ecstasy”) abuse and high-risk sexual behaviors among 169 gay and bisexual men. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157: 1162-1164.
  11. ^ Krosin, M., Klitzman, R., Levin, B., Cheng, J., Ranney, ML. Problems in comprehension of informed consent in rural and peri-urban Mali, West Africa. Clinical Trials, 3(3): 306-313.
  12. ^ Klitzman, R. Improving education on doctor-patient relationships and communication: Lessons from doctors who become patients. Academic Medicine, 81(5): 447-453.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Parker, Tara (2008-02-08). "When Doctors Become Patients -". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  15. ^ Klitzman, Robert (2003-01-21). "CASES; Questions That Have No Answers - New York Times". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  16. ^ Klitzman, Robert (2006-01-17). "Genetic Testing Creates New Versions of Ancient Dilemmas". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ Klitzman, Robert (2006-05-09). "The Quest for Privacy Can Make Us Thieves". The New York Times. 
  18. ^ "Robert Klitzman, M.D.: 'Just Sign the Form': Informed Consent, Medical Research and You". 2010-05-14. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  19. ^ Klitzman, Robert (2003-05-13). "CASES; With Disease, Fear Knows No Cultural Boundaries - New York Times". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  20. ^ McNeil Jr, Donald G. (2006-06-23). "Study Suggests More Deaths From Mad Cow Disease". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ "Robert Klitzman, M.D.: Death Panels, Dignity, and You". 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  22. ^ "Stem Cell Research Funding Halt". CBS News. 
  23. ^ "Robert Klitzman, M.D.: Praying for Doctors and Patients". 2010-06-07. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  24. ^ Klitzman, Robert (2008-03-24). "Prayer, Faith and Doctors -". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  25. ^ a b Gilsdorf, Janet R. (20 March 2008). "Review: When Doctors Become Patients by Robert Klitzman". N Engl J Med. 358: 1309–1310. doi:10.1056/NEJMbkrev59469. 
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  30. ^ "The Ethics Police?: The Struggle to Make Human Research Safe". 
  31. ^ "Medical Research on Humans: Making It Ethical". New York Review of Books. 
  32. ^ "Robert Klitzman | Guggenheim Foundation". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  33. ^ "Robert Klitzman | Russell Sage Foundation". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  34. ^ "When Doctors Become Patients The Health Care Experience of HIV Infected Physicians". The Commonwealth Fund. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
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  37. ^ "Ethics Committee". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  38. ^ "HIV Prevention Trials Network". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  39. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  40. ^ "Should Therapists Analyze Presidential Candidates?". 2016-03-07. 
  41. ^ Doctors Fail to Address Patients' Spiritual Needs, 2015-08-13 
  42. ^ "CNN Profiles-Robert Klitzman". 
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