Andrew H Peterson

Andrew H Peterson

Andrew H Peterson

Assistant Professor

Bioethics, Philosophy of Neuroscience, Consciousness

Andrew Peterson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University. He is also an Affiliate Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Memory Center. Previously, he was a Greenwall Faculty Scholar and a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar in the Rotman Institute of Philosophy and The Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario, Canada (2013-2016). He is a recipient of the 2021 Rising Star Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. 

Dr. Peterson’s research centers on bioethics and the philosophy of neuroscience, with specialization in ethical issues related to neurology and human consciousness. His work has been funded by The National Institute on Aging, the Greenwall Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholars program, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. 

Selected Publications

  1. Largent E, Peterson A, Fernandez Lynch H. (2021) FDA approval and the ethics of desperation (Forthcoming) JAMA Internal Medicine
  2. Ney D, Peterson A, Karlawish J. (2021) Ethical implications of paradoxical lucidity in people with dementia (Forthcoming) J of American Geriatrics Society
  3. Peterson A, Largent E, Harkin K, Sites S, Karlawish J. (2021) What is paradoxical lucidity? The answer starts with its definition. Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Epub ahead of print July, 2021.
  4. Peterson A, Webster F, Munce S, Gonzalez L, Owen AM, Weijer C. (2021). How do families react to research evidence of covert consciousness following severe brain injury? BMC Medical Ethics. Epub ahead of print July, 2021. 
  5. Peterson A, Aas S, Wasserman D. (2021). What justifies the allocation of health care resources to patients with disorders of consciousness. AJOB-Neuroscience 12(2-3):127-139.
  6. Peterson A, Mintz K, Owen AM. (Forthcoming). Unlocking their voices: Decision making, autonomy, and disorders of consciousness. Cambridge Handbook to Brain Reading and The Law.
  7. Largent EA, Peterson A. (2021) Supported decision making in the U.S. and abroad. Journal of Health Care Law and Policy 23(2):271-296.
  8. Buckwalter W, Peterson A. (2020). Public attitudes toward resource allocation in the Covid-19 pandemic. PloS ONE. 15(11): e0240651.
  9. Goldstein CE, Peterson A. (2020) Is it unethical to publish data from Chinese transplant research?
  10. Peterson A, Karlawish J Largent EA. (2020). Supported decision making for people at the margins of autonomy. AJOB; Published online ahead of print, 2020 Dec 29.
  11. Peterson A, Largent E, Karlawish J. (2020) Ethics of reallocating ventilators in the COVID-19 pandemic. BMJ. 369: m1828.
  12. Peterson A, Owen AM, Karlawish J. (2020) Translating the discovery of covert consciousness into clinical practice. JAMA Neurology, 77(5):541-542.
  13. Peterson A. (2020) How will families react to evidence of covert consciousness in brain-injured patients? Neuroethics. Published online January 4, 2020. DOI: /10.1007/s12152-019-09428-1.
  14. Peterson A, Kostick K, O'Brien K, Blumenthal-Barby J. (2019) Seeing minds in patients with disorders of consciousness. Brain Injury. Published online December. 27, 2019. DOI: 10.1080/02699052 .2019.1706000
  15. Tung J, Speechley KN, Gofton T, Gonzalez-Lara L, Graham M, Naci L, Peterson A, Owen AM, Weijer C. (2019) Toward the assessment of quality of life in patients with disorders of consciousness. Quality of Life Research. Published online Dec. 14, 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s11136-019-02390-8
  16. Peterson A, Owen AM. (2019) Confronting the grey zone after severe brain injury. Emerging Topics in The Life Sciences; 3(6): 707-711.
  17. Peterson A, Tagliazzuchi E, Weijer C. (2019) The ethics of psychedelic research in disorders of consciousness. Neuroscience of Consciousness. Published online October 9, 2019. DOI:
  18. Peterson A, Owen AM, Karlawish J. (2019) Alive inside. Bioethics. Published online October 2, 2019.
  19. Peterson A.(2019) A critical analysis of Joseph Fins’ mosaic decision making. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics; 28(4): 725-736. 
  20. Peterson A.(2018) Should neuroscience inform judgments of decision-making capacity? Neuroethics; 12(2): 133-151.
  21. Peterson A, Bayne T. (2018) Post-comatose disorders of consciousness. In Gennaro R.J. (ed.) Routledge Handbook of Consciousness; Routledge: New York.
  22. Peterson A, Bayne T. (2017) A taxonomy for disorders of consciousness that takes consciousness seriously. AJOB-Neuroscience;8(3): 153-155
  23. Cairncross M,Peterson A, Lazosky A, Gofton T, Weijer C. (2016) Assessing decision-making capacity in patients with communication impairments. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics; 25: 691-699.
  24. Peterson A. (2016) Consilience, clinical validation, and global disorders of consciousness. Neuroscience of Consciousness;1(1). DOI: doi:10.1093/nc/niw011
  25. Weijer C, Bruni T, Gofton T, Young B, Norton L, Peterson A, Owen AM. (2016) Ethical considerations in functional magnetic resonance imaging research in acutely comatose patients. Brain; 139(pt1): 292-299.
  26. Graham M, Weijer C, Cruse D, Fernández-Espejo D, Gofton T, Gonzalez-Lara L, Lazosky A, Naci L, Norton L, Peterson A, Speechley K, Young B, Owen AM. (2015) An ethics of welfare for patients diagnosed as vegetative with covert awareness. AJOB-Neuroscience; 6(2): 31-41
  27. Peterson A, Cruse D, Naci L, Weijer C, Owen AM. (2015) Risk, diagnostic Error, and the clinical science of consciousness.Neuroimage:Clinical; 7: 588-597.
  28. Graham M, Weijer C, Peterson A, Naci L, Cruse D, Fernández-Espejo D, Owen AM. (2015) Acknowledging awareness: informing families of individual research results for patients in vegetative states. Journal of Medical Ethics; 41(7): 534-53
  29. Peterson A, Norton L, Naci L, Owen AM, Weijer C. (2014) Toward a science of brain death. American Journal of Bioethics; 14(8): 29-31.
  30. Peterson A, Thome J, Frewen P, Lanius R. (2014) Resting-state neuroimaging studies: A new way of identifying the differences and similarities among the anxiety disorders?Canadian Journal of Psychiatry; 59(6): 295-300.
  31. Weijer C, Peterson A, Webster F, Graham M, Cruse D, Fernández-Espejo D, Gofton T, Gonzalez-Lara L, Lazosky A, Naci L, Owen AM. (2014) Ethics of neuroimaging after serious brain injury. BMC Medical Ethics; 15(41). DOI: 10.1186/1472-6939-15-41. [13 pages]
  32. Peterson A, Naci L, Weijer C, Cruse D, Fernández-Espejo D, Graham M, Owen AM.(2013) Assessing decision-making capacity in the behaviorally non-responsive patient with residual covert awareness. AJOB-Neuroscience; 4(4): 3-14.
  33. Peterson A, Naci L, Weijer C, Owen AM. (2013) A principled argument, but not a practical one. AJOB-Neuroscience; 4(1): 52-53.
  34. Peterson A. (2011) The relevance of scientific practice to the problem of coordination. Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science; 5(1): 44-57.

Grants and Fellowships


  1. Paradoxical Lucidity in Dementia, 2020-2022, National Institute on Aging (NIH), PIs: A. Peterson and J. Karlawish (UPenn)
  2. The Coming Home Project, 2018-2019, National Endowment for the Humanities, PIs: J. Kirkpatrick (Mason) and E. Barrett (US Naval Academy); Co-PI: Peterson
  3. ​The Ethics of Severe Brain Injury, 2018-2021, Greenwall Foundation Faculty Scholars Program, PI: A. Peterson
  4. The Ethics of Neuroimaging After Serious Brain Injury, 2014-2018, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, PIs: C. Weijer (Western) and A.M. Owen (Western); Collaborator: A. Peterson
  5. Ethical and Epistemological Issues in The New Science of Consciousness, 2013-2016, Vanier Canada Graduate Scholars Program, PI: A. Peterson

Courses Taught

Philosophy of Disability (Graduate/Undergraduate)

The Science of Consciousness (Graduate)

The Ethics of Neuroimaging After Severe Brain Injury (Graduate)

Bioethics (Undergraduate)

Minds, Brains, and Machines (Undergraduate)



PhD Philosophy, 2016, University of Western Ontario

MA Philosophy, 2011, San Francisco State University

In the Media

Media Essays

Times-Dispatch Richmond. George Mason University if right to require Covid-19 vaccinations. 2021

USA Today. Alzheimer’s patients are desperate for treatment. But the FDA can’t throw out its standards. 2021 Covid-19 proved Americans with disabilities need Biden’s infrastructure plan. Lawmakers must not negotiate it away. 2021

Washington Post. End the coronavirus lockdown in the D.C. jail.

STAT News. A monument to our monumental suffering can help America heal from this pandemic. 2021

The Hill. COVID-19 vaccines are worthless if people aren't vaccinated. 2020

CNN Opinion. How to decide who gets the Covid-19 vaccine first. 2020

NBC News. Rising Covid cases means Americans may face health care rationing. Here's how they view that. 2020

The Hill. Older adults deserve to vote too — here's the support they need. 2020


Media Commentaries

Verywell HealthAs FDA narrows use of new Alzheimer’s drug, providers proceed with caution. 2021.

Washington PostWhen should vaccinated travelers wear masks outdoors? 2021.

Verywell HealthFive reasons the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rollout is behind schedule. 2021.

Fox HealthPfizer's coronavirus vaccine low-temperature storage requirement could be logistical snag. 2020.

Fox NewsHow do the Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines compare? 2020.

USA News & World ReportWhat the Pfizer vaccine means for investors. 2020.

MedicalXpressResearchers analyze ethics of allocating resources in COVID-19 era. 2020.

National Post Canada. Alive inside: How do we reach 'vegetative' patients when tests show they're aware of everything? 2019

Vice Magazine. Scientists want to try using shrooms to revive people in vegetative states. 2019

Dana Foundation. Psychedelic treatment for consciousness disorders? 2019

AAAS Eureka AlertMason philosophy professor explores the ethics of severe brain injury. 2018

CBC Radio, Ideas From the Trenches. The open mind. 2016

The New Scientist. Portable mind reader gives voice to locked-in people. 2015

San Francisco State University. Philosophy alumnus spotlight. 2014

Western University. Philosophical implications of the new science of consciousness. 2013

Foundation Western. Collaborative spirit benefits graduate student. 2013

Rotman Institute of Philosophy. Philosophy and combat stress. 2012