Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D. [CV], a Harvard
Medical School ('77) and Princeton University ('72) honors graduate,
maintains an active patient practice, has a distinguished academic achievement
record, and consults nationally. He is currently a senior clinical faculty
member at Harvard Medical
School and co-founded the Program
in Psychiatry and the Law at the Beth Israel Medical Center Psychiatry of Harvard Medical School. In recognition of his many years serving as a Principal
Mentor for students at Harvard Medical School Dr. Bursztajn recently
received the A.
Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award. Additionally, he consults,
teaches, and testifies nationwide as an expert qualified in general psychiatry
and forensic neuropsychiatry. His special areas of interest include medical
and psychiatric malpractice, psychiatric diagnosis, suicide prevention,
sexual boundary violation claim evaluations, risk management consultation,
boundary training, detection of malingering, pain impairment evaluations,
informed consent, medication management standards, managed health care,
psychiatric and forensic neuropsychiatric autopsies, testamentary capacity,
diminished capacity, death penalty mitigation, and employment related
issues such as ADA, disability, workers' compensation, and sexual harassment.
Other areas of special clinical and forensic interest include the forensic
neuropsychiatric evaluation of medical complications of psychiatric illness
and medication as well as psychiatric complications of medical illness.
Dr. Bursztajn's litigation prevention services include both continuing
education workshops and individual consultations. He has taught clinicians,
judges, and attorneys on a variety of forensic topics, including evaluation
of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and detection of medical and psychiatric
malingering and misattribution, as well as a variety of clinical topics,
including informed consent, assessment of suicide, pain management, psychopharmacology,
the addictions, and the treatment of acutely and chronically mentally
ill patients. He also consults widely to both public and private organizations
including state and federal agencies, the courts, law firms, health care
providers, educational institutions, and corporations.
Dr. Bursztajn has published more than 70
peer-reviewed medical journal articles, 4
books, and more than 30 book
chapters. He is also a major contributor to national media health
reporting designed to educate the general public. A respected peer
reviewer for medical, mental health, and ethics journals, he has
been qualified nationally as an expert in State and Federal courts.
He has served on a variety of advisory and expert panels including
the ABA State Judicial Institute Benchbook Project for Judges.
"There is a growing recognition of the deep influence of unrecognized
but influential biases on decision-making in medicine. In economics the
2002 Nobel prize winner Danny
Kahneman focused on such biases or heuristics." Dr. Bursztajn
in his first book "Medical Choices" pioneered
integrating the decision-analysis framework of Daniel Kahneman and his
long-time collaborator, Amos Tversky, with the psychoanalytic framework
originated by Sigmund Freud to provide medical decision-makers and educators
with a road map of common motivational and heuristic pitfalls to avoid
in medical decision-making.
His writings have contributed to an increased awareness of the need for
physicians to be able to analyze their own countertransference responses
to patients in managed health care pressured settings. Such works include Captive
Patients, Captive Doctors and Managed-Health-Care
Complications and Clinical Remedies.
Dr. Bursztajn's work also helps psychiatrists working with the sickest
patients on managed health care pressured inpatient units to be able
to analyze the meanings and motivations behind decision-making behavior
which can sometimes lead to premature discharge and tragic outcomes for
some of these patients. For more detail, see Triage
Pitfalls in Managed Medical and Mental Health Care.
Dr. Bursztajn's contributions to protecting public education and safety
include being among the public opinion leaders urging the identifying,
stopping and preventing of the current vicious cycle of cop-cat terrorism.
He often consults as a forensic psychiatric expert for public education
and the news media. His public service contributions include a focus
on protecting public safety. He has appeared nationally on CNN
Headline News (October 21, 2002) and on the Discovery Channel's
programs "Who Killed Julius
Caesar?, " "Who Killed
Killed Alexander the Great?," "The
Mysterious Death of Cleopatra,"
and "Columbus: Secrets From The
Grave" and regionally on the New England Cable News NECN (October
16, 2002). Before the identities of the terrorist snipers were revealed,
he urged law enforcement and the public to be on the lookout not for
those in the mold of serial killers but to focus its search on potential "copy-cat" terrorists
who were encouraged by 9/11 to join the cycle of terrorism currently
sweeping the globe under the false promise being offered by some Islamic
fundamentalists of heaven for holy war murderers.
What motivated Dr. Bursztajn to become a doctor?
- The Shoah and its Aftermath: the
testimony of Dr. Bursztajn's father, a Holocaust survivor.
- Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin issue from Autumn 2006 titled "Sparks
of Inspiration" includes the article "Prescriptions
for Hope". Lessons from the Holocaust in how doctors
can heal through hope, an adaptation of Dr. Bursztajn's original
- For more information on Jewish Lodz, please visit the Lodz
ShtetLinks home page.
- Two photographs of Dr. Bursztajn's
mother who was part of the Lodz resistance in 1944.
- Daniel Kahneman,
on staff at Princeton, who as a psychologist received the Nobel Prize
in economics and has made fundamental contributions across disciplinary
- Among Dr. Bursztajn's memorable teachers at Princeton was Theodore
Weiss, Poet, Professor and Journal Editor.
- For those interested in the foundations of clinical decision making
and forensic analysis, inference, and opinion formulation, this resource is
well worth the effort. Hilary Putnam’s writings include the preface
to the 1990 edition of Medical
Choices, Medical Chances.
- Caring for patients and life long learning is a commitment that Dr.
Bursztajn shares with friends, colleagues and mentors/mentees.
- Photo: Dr. Bursztajn with Acting Dean of Harvard Medical School Barbara McNeil, MD at a meeting focusing on developing medical school education resources.
- Obituaries in the Huffington Post and Harvard University Press for Dr. Bursztajn's friend and mentor Hilary Putnam, who passed away on March 13th, 2016. Putnam wrote the preface to Dr. Bursztajn's groundbreaking book Medical Choices, Medical Chances and their conversations continued for over 40 years.
- Dr. Bursztajn and Dr. Sabine Hildebrandt are pictured with their mentee Ivana Viani, a Harvard Medical School student chosen to present her research on ethical decision making in times of crisis at Soma Weiss Research Day.
- Dr. Bursztajn is pictured with Professor A Stone Freedberg, a
distinguished clinician and Harvard Medical School Professor
Emeritus at Dr. Freedberg's 99th birthday party. Dr. Freedberg
continued to help Dr. Bursztajn teach medical students patient
care until his passing in 2009 at the age of 101. Early on,
as a medical student in the 1970's, Dr. Bursztajn joined
Dr. Freedberg in what became a many decade dialog with the
artist Hyman Bloom.
More information about Dr. Freedberg's full life can be found
in his moving obituary in
the Boston Globe and Jonathan Mahler's article in the New
York Times, "The
- Dr. Bursztajn's friend and colleague Andre Churchwell, MD
has been named associate
dean for Diversity for Vanderbilt University School of
Medicine and has been named chief diversity officer of VUMC to better reflect Nashville. Dr. Churchwell talks about his experiences as a young man in "A View From the Inside" produced by the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning. Dr. Churchwell has also wrote movingly on his reflections of a Harvard Medical School Reunion: Reunions, signposts on life's highway.
to Listen Well. Brad Crotty, MD, a mentee of Dr. Bursztajn's,
talks about the Mentored Casebook Project at Harvard Medical
School of which Dr. Bursztajn has been a Mentor since 2003
and a Project Advisor since 2008.
- Daniel D. Federman, M.D., a friend and longtime colleague
of Dr. Bursztajn's, was honored at Harvard Medical School
with a Symposium on Medical Eduction. About Dr. Federman,
Dr. Bursztajn had this to say:
Dan Federman embodies not only what is best about
HMS but also what is best about humanity aka menschlichtkeit.
His ability to be authentic, learned as to fundamentals,
and kind in the midst of uncertainty is an unforgettable
- Dr. Bursztajn
is pictured at his 35th Princeton reunion with classmate
Rob Hamm, Ph.D., on the faculty at the University of Oklahoma
medical school, who worked with Dr. Bursztajn on the 1981
book Medical Choices, Medical Chances and on many projects
Bursztajn is pictured at his 35th Princeton reunion with
classmate Dr. James Hinton, a family physician who cares
for patients in north central Texas.
- An Obituary of
one of Dr. Bursztajn's mentors, Dr. J. Gordon Scannell, a
leading Thoracic Surgeon who passed away on August 24, 2002.
- Article: On
Being Mentored and Mentoring. Dr. Bursztajn's recollections
of being mentored by Leston Havens, M.D. (1924-2011) in the
Winter, 2012 International Society for the Psychological
Treatments of the Schizophrenias and other Psychoses (ISPS).
Reviews of and praise for Dr. Bursztajn and
Interviews and Features of Dr. Bursztajn and his work
HAROLD J. BURSZTAJN, M.D.
President of the American Unit of the UNESCO Bioethics Chair
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
co-Founder, Program in Psychiatry & the Law @
BIDMC Psychiatry of Harvard Medical School
TEL (617) 492-8366 FAX (617) 441-3195