Karen Rothenberg

Marjorie Cook Professor Emeritus of Law

Photo of Karen Rothenberg


  • BA, 1973, MPA, 1974, Princeton University
  • JD, 1979, University of Virginia

Karen H. Rothenberg, J.D., M.P.A., is the Marjorie Cook Professor Emeritus of Law, founding Director of the Law & Health Care Program, and was Dean of the University of Maryland School of Law from 1999-2009. Professor Rothenberg is also Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. 

From 2012 through June 2015, Professor Rothenberg served as Senior Advisor to the Director on Genomics & Society, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health (NHGRI/NIH), having served the prior year as Special Advisor to the NHGRI Director. She also served as Visiting Scholar, Department of Bioethics, NIH’s Clinical Center.  During 2009-2010, she was a Scholar-in-Residence at Columbia Law School and a Senior Sabbatical Fellow at its Center for the Study of Law and Culture. 

In addition to her work on a variety of genetic policy issues, her current research includes studying the use of theatre as an innovative tool to identify and encourage discussion of the unique ethical, legal and social issues posed by emerging technologies in health care.  She co-authored the book The Drama of DNA: Narrative Genomics, published by Oxford University Press in 2014 with Lynn Bush as well as numerous articles and plays exploring the intersection of drama, genetics, genomics and bioethics.

Professor Rothenberg is a leading national expert on legal issues in health care. Over the last two decades she has focused her research primarily on the ethical, legal and social implications of genetic testing and research, including the legislative approaches to genetic information in the health insurance and employment context, the impact of genetic research on racial and ethnic populations and women’s health care, and the use of genetic information in the courtroom. Professor Rothenberg is co-editor of the book Women and Prenatal Testing: Facing the Challenges of Genetic Technology and co-author of five articles on genetics and public policy that have been published in the journal Science, the most recent of which is “Judging Genes: When Should Judges Admit or Compel Genetic Tests?” Her other numerous publications cover diverse research interests including the role of gender in health care, AIDS, research ethics, the right to forego treatment, emergency care, and new reproductive technologies. She has testified before federal and state legislatures on a wide range of issues, including the U.S. House of Representatives’ Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

Professor Rothenberg has served on the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission since its inception in 2006 (Chair from 2008-2010) and Co-Chaired the 2009 World Stem Cell Summit.  She is a past president of the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics and former co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. During sabbaticals and IPA leaves from the law school, she has worked at the NIH in the Office of Research on Women’s Health, the National Institute for Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) and NHGRI.   She has served on the NICHD Institutional Review Board and has been a member of the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, the National Action Plan for Breast Cancer, and numerous NIH panels on prenatal care, the recruitment and retention of women in clinical studies, and the ethical, legal and social implications of genetics.

She received both a B.A., magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Princeton University and an M.P.A. from Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. She earned a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was a member of the Order of the Coif.


The Drama of DNA: Narrative Genomics (2014) (with Lynn W. Bush). Abstract

Editor, Women and Prenatal Testing: Facing the Challenges of Genetic Technology (1994) (with E. Thomson).

Book Chapters

Eugenics, Genetics and Gender: Theatre and the Role of Women, in Perceptions of Promise: Biotechnology, Society and Art (Sean Caulfield, Curtis Gillespie & Timothy Caulfield eds., 2011). Abstract

The Social Implications of the Use of Stored Tissue Samples: Context, Control, and Community, in Genetic Testing and the Use of Information 84 (C. Long, ed. 1999). Abstract

Women's Health and Predictive Genetic Testing: Ethical, Legal and Social Challenges, in Genetics and Women's Health 17 (1997).

Genetic Information Challenges for Public Policy, in Exploring Public Policy Issues in Genetics 98 (Mark S. Frankel, ed. 1997).

Predictive Genetic Testing for Cancer: Ethical, Legal, Social and Public Policy Challenges, in Accomplishments in Cancer Research 209 (1996).

Reproductive Choice and Reality: An Assessment of Tort Liability for Health-Care Providers and Women with HIV/AIDS, in HIV, AIDS & Childbearing: Public Policy, Private Lives (Fade & Kans, eds.1996).

Gestational Surrogacy and the Health Care Provider, in The Beginning of Human Life 101 (F.K. Belle & R. F. Weir eds., 1994). Abstract

The Good Mother: The Limits of Reproductive Accountability and Genetic Choice, in Women and Prenatal Testing: Facing the Challenges of Genetic Technology (Rothenberg and Thomson ed., 1994) (with A. Charo).

Surrogacy and the Health Care Professional: Baby M and Beyond, in Surrogate Motherhood: Politics and Privacy 184 (Larry Gostin ed., 1990).


Setting the Stage: Enhancing Understanding of Bioethical Challenges with Theatre, 11 Indiana Health Law Review 1 (2014). Abstract

Finding Fault?: Exploring Legal Duties to Return Incidental Findings in Genomic Research, 102 Georgetown Law Journal 795 (2014) (with Elizabeth R. Pike and Benjamin E. Berkman). Abstract

Reflections on the Cost of "Low Cost" Whole Genome Sequencing: Framing the Health Policy Debate, 11 PLoS Biology e1001699 (2013) (with others). Abstract

Probiotics: Finding the Right Regulatory Balance, 342 Science 6156 (2013) (with others). Abstract

Genes and Plays: Bringing ELSI Issues to Life, 14 Genetics in Medicine 274 (2012) (with Lynn Bush). Abstract

Teaching Law Students to be Policymakers: The Health and Science Workshop on Genomic Research, 40 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 147 (2012) (with Benjamin E. Berkman). Abstract

Dialogues, Dilemmas, and Disclosures: Genomic Research and Incidental Findings, 14 Genetics in Medicine 293 (2012) (with Lynn Bush). Abstract

Mixed Messages: The Intersection of Prenatal Genetic Testing and Abortion, 55 Howard Law Journal 983 (2012) (with Rachel Rebouché). Abstract

Manipulating Fate: Medical Innovations, Ethical Implications, Theatrical Illuminations, 13 Houston Journal of Health Law & Policy 1 (2012). Abstract

From Eugenics to the "New" Genetics: The Play's The Thing, 79 Fordham Law Review 407 (2010). Abstract

Recalibrating the Moral Compass: Expanding “Thinking Like a Lawyer” Into “Thinking Like a Leader,” 40 University of Toledo Law Review 411 (2009). Abstract

Judging Genes: Implications of the Second Generation of Genetic Tests in the Courtroom, 66 Maryland Law Review 858 (2007). Abstract

National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference Statement Cesarean Delivery on Maternal Request, 107 Obstetrics & Gynecology 1386 (2006). Abstract

The Scarlet Gene: Behavioral Genetics, Criminal Law, and Racial and Ethnic Stigma, Law & Contemporary Problems, Winter/Spring 2006, at 343 (with Alice Wang). Abstract

When Should Judges Admit or Compel Genetic Tests?, 310 Science 241 (2005) (with Diane Hoffmann). Abstract

Whose Duty is it Anyway?: The Kennedy Krieger Opinion and its Implications for Public Health Research, 6 Journal of Health Care Law & Policy 109 (2002) (with Diane Hoffmann). Abstract

Before It’s Too Late – Addressing Fear of Genetic Information, 297 Science 196 (2002) (with Sharon F. Terry).

Consent to the Use of Stored DNA for Genetics Research: A Survey of Attitudes in the Jewish Population, 98 American Journal of Medical Genetics 336 (2001) Abstract

The Practice of Law, 31 University of Toledo Law Review 731 (2000) Abstract

Privacy in Genetics Research, 285 Science 1359 (1999) (with others) Abstract

Being Human: Cloning and the Challenges for Public Policy, 27 Hofstra Law Review 639 (1999). Abstract

Toward a Framework of Mutualism: The Jewish Community in Genetics Research,1 Community Genetics 148 (1998). Abstract

Genetic Discrimination and Health Insurance: A Call for Legislative Action, 52 Journal of the American Medical Women's Association 43 (1997). Abstract

Breast Cancer, The Genetic 'Quick Fix,' and the Jewish Community, 7 Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine 97 (1997). Abstract

Genetic Information and the Workplace: Legislative Approaches and Policy Challenges, 275 Science 1755 (1997) (with others). Abstract

Cancer Genetics Susceptibility Testing: Ethical and Policy Implications for Future Research and Clinical Practice, 25 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 243 (1997) (with others). Abstract

Feminism, Law and Bioethics, 6 Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 69 (1996). Abstract

Gender Matters: Implications for Clinical Research and Women's Health Care, 32 Houston Law Review 1201 (1996). Abstract

Women of Childbearing Potential in Clinical Research: Perspectives on NIH Policy and Liability Issues, 13 Food, Drug, Cosmetic and Medical Device Law Digest 7 (1996) (with others). Abstract

New Perspectives for Teaching & Scholarship: The Role of Gender in Law and Health Care, 54 Maryland Law Review 473 (1995). Abstract

The Risk of Domestic Violence and Women with HIV Infection: Implications for Partner Notification, Public Policy, and the Law, 85 American Journal of Public Health 1569 (1995) (with S. Paskey).

Genetic Information and Health Insurance: State Legislative Approaches, 23 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 312 (1995).

Genetic Discrimination and Health Insurance: An Urgent Need for Reform, 270 Science 391 (1995) (with others).

Domestic Violence & Partner Notification: Implications for Treatment and Counseling of Women with HIV, Journal of the American Medical Women's Association May/Aug. 1995, at 87 (with others).

Something Old, Something New: The Challenge of Tuberculosis Control in the Age of AIDS, 42 Buffalo Law Review 715 (1994) (with Law Lovoy). Abstract

The Law's Response to Reproductive Genetic Testing: Questioning Assumptions About Choice, Causation, and Control, 8 Fetal Diagnosis & Therapy 160 (1993). Abstract

Reproductive Genetic Testing: Impact Upon Women--Introduction, 8 Fetal Diagnosis & Therapy 2 (1993) (with E. Thomson).

Partner Notification and the Threat of Domestic Violence Against Women with HIV Infection, 329 New Eng. J. Med. 1194 (1993) (with R. North). Abstract

National Institute of Health Workshop Statement -- Reproductive Genetic Testing: Impact on Women, 51 Am. J. Human Genetics 1161 (1992) (with E. Thomson et al.) Abstract

Myth and Reality: The Threat of Medical Malpractice Claims by Low Income Women, 20 Law, Medicine & Health Care 403 (1992). Abstract

The Duty to Warn 'Dilemma' and Women with AIDS: Redefining the 'Foreseeable Victim', 2 Courts, Health Science & the Law 90 (1991) (with R. Law North), reprinted in Contemporary Issues in Bioethics (1994).

Gestational Surrogacy and the Health Care Provider: Put Part of the 'IVF Genie' Back Into the Bottle, 18 Law, Medicine & Health Care 345 (1991). Abstract

The Right to Forego Life-Sustaining Treatment: Legal Trends and Emerging Issues, 11 Journal of Health and Human Resources Administration 480 (1989) Abstract

The Duty to Warn Dilemma: A Framework for Resolution, 4 AIDS & Public Policy Journal 133 (1989) (with R. Law North).

Foregoing Life-Sustaining Treatment: What are the Legal Limits in an Aging Society?, 33 St. Louis University Law Journal 575 (1989). Abstract

Who Cares?: The Evolution of the Legal Duty to Provide Emergency Care, 26 Houston Law Review 21 (1989), reprinted in Personal Injury Review 253 (1989) and Specialty Law Digest: Health Care 7 (1990). Abstract

Introduction: The AIDS Project: Creating a Public Health Policy, 48 Maryland Law Review 93 (1989). Abstract

Baby M, The Surrogacy Contract, and the Health Law Professional: Unanswered Questions, 16 Law, Medicine & Health Care 113 (1988) Abstract

Psychosocial, Legal, and Ethical Dimensions of Ultra-sound Imaging in Pregnancy, in Diagnostic Ultrasound Imaging in Pregnancy (1984) (with others). Abstract

Note, The Application of the Tarasoff Duty to Forensic Psychiatry, 66 Virginia Law Review 715 (1980).