Mara Buchbinder

Associate Professor, Social Medicine Adjunct Associate Professor, Anthropology

PhD, Anthropology, UCLA, 2010
MA, Anthropology, Case Western, 2005
BA, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, 2002

Mara Buchbinder, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Social Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology at UNC – Chapel Hill, as well as core faculty in the UNC Center for Bioethics. Dr. Buchbinder is a medical anthropologist with broad interests in cultures of health, illness, and medicine in the United States. Her recent work focuses on how patients, families, and healthcare providers navigate social and ethical challenges resulting from changes in medical technology, law, and health policy. Dr. Buchbinder is the author of Saving Babies? The Consequences of Newborn Genetic Screening (with Stefan Timmermans, 2013, University of Chicago Press) and All in Your Head: Making Sense of Pediatric Pain (2015, University of California Press), the editor of Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: Bridging Perspectives for New Conversations (with Michele Rivkin-Fish and Rebecca Walker, 2016, UNC Press), and co-editor of the two volume series The Social Medicine Reader, 3rd edition, (2019, Duke University Press). In 2015, Dr. Buchbinder was selected for a Greenwall Faculty Scholars Award (2015-2018), a career development award which enables junior faculty to carry out innovative bioethics research. In 2017, she received a Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty at UNC – Chapel Hill. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Dr. Buchbinder’s current project, The Vermont Study of Aid-in-Dying (Vermont SAID), is an ethnographic study of the implementation and cultural impact of Vermont’s “Patient Choice and Control at End of Life” Act (Act 39). The law authorizes physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a mentally competent, terminally ill, adult patient for the purpose of ending the patient’s life. Six states in the US currently permit this practice, and with ongoing legislative activities in many other states, these laws are expected to spread nationally. Regardless of one’s moral position on assisted dying, this shifting legislative climate raises questions of broad public significance about how the legalization of medical aid-in-dying affects death, dying, and end-of-life care in the US. By tracing the social life of Act 39 from the Vermont State House to the institutions, experts, and ordinary people responsible for managing death, this project will yield valuable information about the sociocultural consequences of assisted dying legislation.