Steven Miles, M.D., is a professor of Medicine and Bioethics at the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Steven Miles, professor in the Center for Bioethics and the Medical School at the University of Minnesota, has built a medical career around his concern for the ethics of healthcare and dignity of others. Miles’ work has changed end-of-life care, treatment practices in nursing homes, refugee camp medicine, and military medical practices. Miles’ concern for quality of life among the elderly and disenfranchised has motivated his career and taken him to new heights within the field of bioethics.
As a part of Miles’ early interest in exploring end-of-life care, Miles authored the original Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order – which is still in use today. After completing his research on DNRs, Miles then went on to delve deeper into end-of-life care by examining the use of restraints in nursing homes.
In 1980, 40 percent of nursing home residents were restrained, resulting in severe disability or death among elderly patients. Now, well under 5 percent of nursing homes use restraints – a vast improvement which has improved the quality of life for elderly patients. For Miles, exposing the previously unrecognized harm caused by the use of restraints was a real gamechanger.
“All of the sudden I became an ethics expert and I kept going from there,” says Miles.
Miles has published four books, and more than 200 medical articles on various topics including medical ethics and human rights. His latest book, Oath Betrayed: America’s Torture Doctors, examines medical practices at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and has gained him international recognition. Credited with exposing the partnership between those torturing prisoners and the medical professionals participating in the practice, some of his work is used by the CIA as required reading.
While Miles has been successful and well recognized for his work, it is clear that the people he has helped have had more of an impact on him than the praise he receives. For Miles, the motivation and reward for his work stems from the same two places: patients and students.
“Patients will tell you what the real medical needs are, and students will tell you what information needs to be created and passed along,” says Miles. “Everything ultimately has to come from them.”
As a longtime member of the University community and recipient of the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Miles is also very aware of the opportunity he has to help the next generation of leaders.
“I think that universities are designed to conserve, create and pass on knowledge.” Miles says. “Working with students is essential to helping transforming students into assets to our state and our world, while also being able to help call attention to issues of ethics.”
Steven Miles’ research on ethical issues in medicine has been recognized near and far, but his dedication to improving the quality of others’ lives through patient care and professing is what makes him an AHC Gamechanger. #UMNProud