Debra DeBruin, PhD

Director, Director of Graduate Studies, and Associate Professor

Expertise: Public Health Ethics | Ethics of Health Policy | Health Equity | Public Health Preparedness and Crisis Response

Debra DeBruin

United States

Dr. Debra DeBruin primarily works on issues in public health ethics and the ethics of health policy, with a focus on concerns about social justice and health equity. Much of this work addresses issues of gender, race, and socioeconomic disadvantage. She also has done substantial work on public health emergency planning, with an emphasis on the importance of equity in this perilous context. She co-directed the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project and led the project to develop ethics guidance for Crisis Standards of Care in Minnesota; both of these projects were conducted under contract with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). During the COVID-19 pandemic, she co-led the Minnesota COVID Ethics Collaborative, a statewide advisory group that provided input to MDH on ethical issues in pandemic response.

In addition to teaching philosophy and bioethics, Dr. DeBruin has served as a health policy fellow for Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the Democratic office of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee of the United States Senate. She has also worked as a consultant to the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine and the National Bioethics Advisory Commission on issues relating to the ethics of research.

In addition to her scholarly work in bioethics, Dr. DeBruin has a strong record of administrative leadership for the Center for Bioethics. Over the years, she has served as Director of Graduate Studies, Director of Education, Associate Director, and Director/Interim Director. 

Dr. DeBruin received her BA from Carleton College magna cum laude with distinction in philosophy and her PhD in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed a Greenwall Postdoctoral Fellowship in Bioethics and Health Policy at Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health and Georgetown University.

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Selected Publications

State and National Advisory Reports

  • DeBruin D, Leider JP, Reynolds N. Ethical guidance for crisis standards of care: planning and response guidelines. An annex to the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH’s) Crisis Standards of Care Plan. Deliverable to MDH for Minnesota Crisis Standards of Care Ethics contract. December 2016. Available at
  • DeBruin D, Marshall MF. Ethical issues in pandemic influenza planning concerning pregnant and postpartum women. Obstetrics and Gynecology 121(5):1138-1143, May 2013. Published as American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee Opinion, ACOG Ethics Committee. Invited primary author: ACOG’s policy is to omit authors’ names from publications, but to acknowledge authorship by letter. 
  • DeBruin D, Marshall MF, Parilla E, Liaschenko J, Leider J, Brunnquell D, Garrett J, Vawter D. Implementing Ethical Frameworks for Rationing Scarce Health Resources in Minnesota During Severe Influenza Pandemic. Minneapolis, MN; 2010. Report of the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project (deliverable to Minnesota Department of Health) 121 pp. Available at
  • Vawter D, Garrett J, Gervais K, Prehn A, DeBruin D, Tauer C, Parilla E, Liaschenko J, Marshall M. For the Good of Us All: Ethically Rationing Health Resources in Minnesota in a Severe Influenza Pandemic. Minneapolis, MN; 2010. Report of the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project (deliverable to Minnesota Department of Health) 183 pp. Available at
  • DeBruin D. Justice and the Inclusion of Women in Clinical Studies:  A Conceptual Framework. In: Mastroianni A, Faden R, Federman D, for the Committee on the Ethical and Legal Issues Relating to the Inclusion of Women in Clinical Studies, Division of Health Sciences Policy, Institute of Medicine. Women and Health Research:  Ethical and Legal Issues of Including Women in Clinical Studies vol. 2. Washington DC:  National Academy Press; 1994: 127-150.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters 

  • DeBruin, D. (2022). Addressing Pandemic Disparities: Equity and Neutral Conceptions of Justice. In: Boylan, M. (eds) Ethical Public Health Policy Within Pandemics. The International Library of Bioethics, vol 95. Springer, Cham.
  • DeBruin DA. and Marshall, MF. Policing Women to Protect Fetuses: Coercive Interventions During Pregnancy. In: Analyzing Violence Against Women, edited by Wanda Teays. Springer International Publishing; 2019: 95-111.
  • DeBruin DA and Leider, JP. Ethics and the public health system. Invited chapter for: Kahn J, Kass N, and Mastroianni A, eds. Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics Oxford University Press; published online ahead of print January 2019; 17 pages.
  • Laar A and DeBruin D. Key populations and human rights in the context of HIV services rendition in Ghana. BMC International Health and Human Rights. 2017; 17:20 (10 journal pages). 
  • Leider JP, DeBruin D, Reynolds N, Koch A, Seaberg J. Ethical guidance for disaster response, specifically around crisis standards of care: a systematic review. American Journal of Public Health,107(9), September 2017: e1-e9 (published online ahead of print July 20, 2017).
  • DeBruin D, Liaschenko J, Lyerly AD, Marshall MF. Chasing virtue, enforcing virtue: social justice and conceptions of risk in pregnancy. In: Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: New Conversations Across the Disciplines. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press; 2016: 160-184.
  • Solomon S, DeBruin D, Eder M, Heitman E, Kaberry J, McCormick J, Opp J, Sharp R, Strelnick H, Winkler S, Yarborough M, Anderson E. Community-engaged research ethics review: exploring flexibility in federal regulations. IRB: Ethics and Human Research. May/June 2016.
  • DeBruin DA. Fetal Risk, Fetal Purity, and the Perils Posed by Pregnant Women, The American Journal of Bioethics, 16:2, 2016; 12-14.
  • Laar A and DeBruin D. Ethics-sensitivity of the Ghana national integrated strategic response plan for pandemic influenza. BMC Medical Ethics 2015; 16(30): published online ahead of print, 9 pp.  
  • Laar AK, DeBruin DA, Craddock S. Partner notification in the context of HIV: an interest-analysis. AIDS Research and Therapy 2015; 12(15): published online ahead of print, 8 pp.
  • DeBruin DA, Liaschenko J, Marshall MF. Social Justice in Pandemic Preparedness. American Journal of Public Health 2012 Apr; 102(4):586-91. 
  • DeBruin DA, Liaschenko J, Fisher A. How clinical trials really work: rethinking research ethics. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal. June 2011; 21(2): 121-139.
  • Liaschenko J, DeBruin D, Marshall MF. The two-patient framework for research during pregnancy: a critique and a better way forward. American Journal of Bioethics. May 2011; 11(5): 66-68.
  • Vawter DE, Garrett JE, Gervais KG, Prehn AW, DeBruin D. Attending to social vulnerability when rationing pandemic resources. Journal of Clinical Ethics. Spring 2011; 22(1): 42-53. 
  • Garrett JE, Vawter DE, Gervais KG, Prehn AW, DeBruin DA, Livingston F, Morley AM, Liaschenko J, Lynfield R. The Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project: sequenced, robust public engagement processes. Journal of Participatory Medicine. January 2011; 3:e6. (Online, open access publication; no page numbers available. Was 15 manuscript pages.).
  • Vawter DE, Garrett JE, Gervais KG, Prehn AW, DeBruin DA. Dueling ethical frameworks for allocating health resources. American Journal of Bioethics. 2010; 10(4): 54-56.
  • DeBruin D, Liaschenko J, Marshall MF. 2010. Commentary: risky business. Hastings Center Report. July-August 2010; 40(4): 5-6.