Collaboration on Law and Brain Injury Thrives at YLS


For the past three years, the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School has been engaged in a groundbreaking collaboration on brain injury and legal rights with the Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury (CASBI) at Cornell and Rockefeller University. Led by Faculty Director Abbe R. Gluck ’00 and Dr. Joseph J. Fins, M.D., M.A.C.P., Professor of Medicine; and Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Solomon Center Distinguished Scholar in Medicine, Bioethics, and the Law, the collaboration has already produced six articles co-authored by students and faculty. Dr. Fins’ pioneering work on the rights of individuals with brain trauma was the subject of a recent piece in The New York Times.

In aiming to reshape the way the law treats individuals with severe brain injury and disorders of consciousness, the collaboration has written articles on how to reform law to increase access to rehabilitation, clinical trials, and assistive devices to restore communication and better integrate such individuals into their communities. Gluck and Fins were colleagues when Gluck was on the faculty of Columbia Law School prior to arriving at Yale in 2012. By coincidence, Dr. Fins was appointed Dwight H. Terry Visiting Scholar in Bioethics and a Visiting Professor in the History of Medicine at Yale Medical School shortly after Gluck’s arriving in New Haven, and the two initiated CASBI@YLS partnership that year. The collaboration is grounded in health law, disability law, equality law and themes of Dr. Fins’s book, Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics, and the Struggle for Consciousness, which Fins finished while on sabbatical at Yale in 2014. Two Solomon Fellows have been instrumental in the work, Michael Ulrich, the Center’s inaugural fellow and now a professor of law and public health at Boston University, and Megan Wright ’16, who worked on the project as a student and has served as its lead graduate fellow and co-author since graduation. More than a dozen YLS students have worked with Dr. Fins and the Solomon Center in co-authoring published work.

“Joe Fins is a brilliant scientist with the deepest commitment to equality and justice,” Gluck said. “He also is a wonderful and generous teacher, relentless in giving our students opportunities to publish with him. I am delighted that CASBI@YLS is translating his groundbreaking work into legal action.