Donnelley Ethics History - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

Skip to Content

Donnelley Ethics Program History

For over twenty years, the Donnelley Ethics Program (DEP) has been a nationally recognized multidisciplinary center focused on rehabilitation and disability ethics. Though the disability rights movement was founded in the 1960s, by the early 1990s it was clear that the movement was underrepresented in clinical ethics discussions.

In light of this, in 1993 RIC and the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago co-hosted a conference, “Ethical Decision-Making in the Rehabilitation Setting: Disability and Autonomy.” Dr. Henry Betts, then CEO of RIC and a pioneer in rehabilitation medicine, spearheaded this effort to highlight discussions about rehabilitation ethics and the importance of including the lived experience of people with disabilities.

RIC’s ethics program was officially founded in 1995. The first Director was Kristi Kirschner, MD, an attending physician at RIC and the Coleman Foundation chair in Rehabilitation Medicine. While Director of the ethics program, Dr. Kirschner created the Disability Ethics Scholars Program, an innovative 12-month course that introduced rehabilitation professionals to different theoretical models of disability and rehabilitation ethics. From 1996-2010, the ethics program trained over 100 multidisciplinary health care professionals.

The Donnelley Ethics Program at RIC has evolved over the years to meet new challenges and address our changing health care environment. This evolution has led to several name changes – the program was initially called the Ethics Forum, then the Center for the Study of Disability Ethics, then the Donnelley Family Disability Ethics Program, to honor the deep commitment and support of the Donnelley Family and specifically, Strachan Donnelley, a philosopher who was a mentor to the Program. From the beginning, the program has highlighted disability rights and narratives about the lived experience of disability and addressed multiple perspectives and theoretical models.

In 2009, Debjani Mukherjee, Ph.D., became the Director of the ethics program, which was renamed the Donnelley Ethics Program to reflect its broader focus on disability, clinical and research ethics, and the new vision of RIC. Looking forward, the Donnelley Ethics Program is excited to continue to raise awareness of ethical issues and provide services to patients and staff in the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab