MacLean Center Prize in Clinical Ethics awarded to prominent Oregon physician Dr. Susan Tolle for end-of-life patient care

MacLean Center Prize in Clinical Ethics awarded to prominent Oregon physician Dr. Susan Tolle for end-of-life patient care

$50,000 prize awarded during 26th annual Dorothy MacLean Fellows Conference

November 11, 2014

The 2014 MacLean Center Prize in Clinical Ethics, an award of $50,000, will be presented to Susan Tolle, MD, a former MacLean Center fellow who has pioneered efforts to improve communication between health care providers and patients regarding end-of-life care.

Tolle will receive the MacLean Prize, the largest award in the clinical medical ethics field, during the 26th annual Dorothy J. MacLean Fellows Conference on ethics in medicine. The conference will be held at the University of Chicago Law School, 1111 E. 60th St., on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 14 and 15.

"Dr. Susan Tolle's dedication, scholarship and hard work to ensure that patient's wishes are honored at the end of life has transformed the care of dying patients in the U.S.," said Mark Siegler, MD, Lindy Bergman Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Surgery and director of the MacLean Center. "I'm very proud of how Dr. Tolle continues to improve patient care and advance the field of clinical medical ethics."

Tolle, a professor of medicine in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine and director of the OHSU Center for Ethics in Health Care, is one of the founders of the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) movement in Oregon in the early 1990s. In a specific subset of patients -- those with advanced illness or frailty -- Tolle and others found that advanced directives were insufficient to safeguard patients' wishes about how they wanted to be treated in life-threatening situations. By contrast, POLST orders work to allow patients to receive the level of care they want in the setting they want.

Previous winners of the MacLean Center Prize are:

  • John Wennberg, MD, a Dartmouth professor who founded the national movement in evaluative clinical sciences. He is director emeritus of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.
  • Peter Singer, MD, MPH, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada, an international leader in the field of global health care ethics.

Tolle credits her fellowship at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics as having played a vital role in fueling the national and international dissemination of the POLST Paradigm.

"POLST is endorsed in 16 states and under development in another 26," Tolle said. "Many former MacLean fellows are leading their states' POLST coalitions. I am deeply honored to receive the MacLean Prize on behalf of all who have worked so hard to ensure that patient wishes are elicited, recorded and honored."

The MacLean Center, which pioneered the formal study of clinical medical ethics in the early 1980s, has the world's largest clinical medical ethics program for health care providers. The center's two-day Dorothy J. MacLean Fellows Conference, which is free and open to the public, is one of the center's hallmarks.

This year's conference includes panel presentations by ethics leaders addressing wide-reaching topics such as Ebola management in U.S. hospitals, community-based clinical ethics, surgical ethics, end-of-life care, the ethical implications of concierge medicine, and organ donation and transplantation. About 500 people are expected to attend one or both days of the conference.

To learn more about the conference, visit While attendance is free of charge, the MacLean Center encourages attendees to register in advance. You also may register at the event.

The MacLean Center's 33rd annual interdisciplinary lecture series, which runs through May, is tackling critical issues in end-of-life care. Tolle is among the nearly 30 renowned guest lecturers participating in the 2014-15 presentations.

Of the 354 fellows who have trained at MacLean since 1981, more than 250 are physicians and about two dozen are currently directing or have directed clinical medical ethics programs in the United States, Canada, Europe and China. More than 21 fellows have held endowed chairs, and graduates from the program are on faculties at more than 40 U.S. universities. While most fellows are physicians, others come from different disciplines, including philosophy, theology, nursing, law and social sciences.