Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights.

Do the right thing.

Public health policy poses increasingly nuanced questions of law, ethics, and human rights—from religious objections to insurance coverage of contraceptives to the size of soda containers. The School-wide Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights (CLER) bridges the gap between public health’s expanding scope and the capacity of academic programs to offer research, education, and advocacy in law, ethics, and human rights.

Our internationally renowned faculty address real-world problems as members of state, national, and international committees and task forces. We bring together experts in many disciplines, including visiting scholars from around the world, and offer post-doctoral fellowships. Our research targets contemporary health policies. We put that research into practice by providing testimony, submitting amicus briefs, and advising government agencies and organizations in health care, biotechnology, and various other fields.

Health Law

The center plays a significant role in developing and interpreting laws and regulations concerning the Affordable Care Act, health promotion programs, firearms, obesity, drug testing, Big Data, surveillance, databanks and privacy, genomics, reproductive health, emergency preparedness, and research with humans. We also produce educational materials, including the groundbreaking book Genomic Messages and our textbook, Public Health Law.


Public health policies can raise challenging ethical dilemmas. Examples studied by CLER faculty include rationing scarce resources, allocating emerging technologies, insurance coverage, theories of paternalism and behavioral economics, genetic testing and screening, reproductive health, health information privacy, religion and public health, needs of disadvantaged populations, end of life care, substance abuse treatment alternatives, institutional care delivery, torture, and refugee health. CLER also develops health law, public health, and ethics curricula and provides clinical ethics consultation services.

Human Rights

We work to protect human rights for all people. This includes monitoring the effect of emergency responses on human rights, as the center did during the Ebola epidemic. The center also produces educational materials on human rights, including our latest textbook, Health and Human Rights in a Changing World. One of our focal activities is providing health care and advocating for immigrants, refugees, and torture survivors through Global Lawyers and Physicians—the center’s non-governmental organization—and Boston Medical Center’s Immigrant & Refugee Health Program.