Members and Staff

Members of the Task Force on Life and the Law

James V. McDonald M.D., M.P.H., was appointed Acting Commissioner of Health January 1, 2023. Prior to joining the New York State Department of Health in July of 2022, Dr McDonald served at the Rhode Island Department of Health since 2012. At the Rhode Island Department of Health, he served in multiple roles including, Interim Director of Health, Chief Administrative Officer of the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, Medical Director for the COVID unit, as well as the Medical Director for Center for Customer Services and the Drug Overdose prevention program. He was also a member of the Governor’s task force on Preventing Overdose deaths. Dr. McDonald has faculty appointments at the Brown School of Public Health as well as the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. For a more detailed biography, please see

Donald P. Berens, Jr. is retired from a career as a New York State government attorney. After working for the Rochester, N.Y. law firm of Harter, Secrest & Emery, Mr. Berens became an Assistant Attorney General in the Claims Bureau of the New York State Department of Law in Albany, N.Y. in 1981. Mr. Berens worked for three successive Attorneys General, defending the State, its officers and employees against claims for monetary damages. In 1995, he became Deputy Attorney General for the Division of State Counsel in the Department of Law, supervising over 200 attorneys around the state who handled contract and real estate transactions and litigated civil cases for the State, its officers and employees in state and federal courts. In 1999, he became Executive Director of the New York State Ethics Commission in Albany, supervising a staff of twenty who advised Executive Branch employees how to comply with the State ethics statute, administered the financial disclosure program mandated by that statute, and investigated and prosecuted violations of the ethics law. In 2000, Mr. Berens became General Counsel of the New York State Health Department, supervising over 100 attorneys who advised the Commissioner of Health and the Governor concerning the Medicaid program, health insurance, establishment and regulation of hospitals and nursing homes, physician discipline, and public health. Mr. Berens became a member of the Task Force on Life and the Law in 2006 and retired from the Department of Health in 2007. Mr. Berens is a graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School.

Cara Berkowitz is the Executive Government Relations Director at The Jewish Board where she advocates for social services funding and policy issues on the New York City, New York State and federal levels. Ms. Berkowitz has raised more than $3 million dollars during her tenure at Jewish Board, and she represented the government relations interests of more than 100 social services agencies during her prior role at UJA-Federation of New York. She also led UJA-Federation's emergency response to Hurricane Sandy for six months after the disaster, which included working with FEMA, state agencies, volunteers and City Hall to provide services to displaced New Yorkers and affected institutions. Prior to UJA, Ms. Berkowitz represented the Bloomberg administration on behalf of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to advocate for City Hall's public health and mental hygiene priorities. A published author, Ms. Berkowitz has written several articles on health care topics including intellectual property of government-sponsored pharmaceutical research and Medicare regulations surrounding palliative care. Ms. Berkowitz is a 2016 92nd Street Y Women in Power Fellow and a 2012 recipient of the New York City and State "40 under 40" award for her city advocacy efforts.

Rabbi J. David Bleich serves as a Rosh Yeshivah (Professor of Talmud) and Rosh Kollel, Kollel le-Hora'ah (Director, Postgraduate Institute for Jurisprudence and Family Law), Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary; Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law; Tenzer Professor of Jewish Law and Ethics, Yeshiva University; and as Rabbi, The Yorkville Synagogue, New York City. He was ordained Mesivta Torah Vodaath Yadin Yadin ordination, and was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. Rabbi Bleich served as an Editor, Halakhah Department, Tradition; Contributing Editor, Sh'ma; Associate Editor, Cancer Investigation; and a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Bioethics. He has been a member of various organizations, including the Executive Board of COLPA (National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs); Board of Directors of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; National Academic Advisory Council of the Academy for Jewish Studies Without Walls; Committee on Ethics, Hospital for Joint Diseases and Medical Center; and of the Bioethics Committee of Metropolitan Hospital. Rabbi Bleich has authored several works, including Contemporary Halakhic Problems (5 vols.), Be-Netivot ha-Halakhah (4 vols.), Bioethical Dilemmas (2 vols.), Judaism and Healing, Time of Death in Jewish Law, Providence in the Philosophy of Gersonides and Bircas Ha-Chammah, and has written extensively on topics of Jewish law and ethics in publications. He was also an Editor of With Perfect Faith: Readings in the Foundations of Jewish Belief and an Editor (with Fred Rosner) of Jewish Bioethics. Rabbi Bleich received his Ph.D. from New York University, his M.A. from Columbia University, and his B.A. from Brooklyn College and has been part of the Task Force since its founding in 1984.

Rock Brynner is a historian, novelist, and political scientist. After attending Yale University, he earned B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy and a Ph.D. in History at Columbia University. He was Assistant Professor of Political Science at Western Connecticut State University and taught History for a decade at Marist College. He has written extensively about medicine, including Dark Remedy: The Impact of Thalidomide and Its Revival as a Vital Medicine (with Trent Stephens) and has spent many years as a patient advocate.

A graduate of Vermont College, Ms Butler combines more than twenty years experience as a critical care nurse with her skills as a practicing attorney. Ms. Butler is a partner in the law firm of Thuillez, Ford, Gold, Butler & Young, LLP. Her areas of practice include medical malpractice defense, professional misconduct, health law, and civil rights litigation. Ms. Butler is admitted to practice law in all the courts of the State of New York, in both the Northern and Southern Districts of New York and in the United States Supreme Court. Graduating magna cum laude from Albany Law School, Ms. Butler was Associate Editor of Albany Law Review and recipient of the Selma Mintz Memorial Prize for graduating with Honors while raising a family. She is a member of the New York State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Defense Research Institute, and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. She is on the board of The Capital District Trial lawyers Association and was president in 2009. A member of the American Association of Nurse Attorneys since 1995, Ms. Butler is on the editorial board of the Journal of Nursing Law. She is also on the Board of Directors of Teresian House where she chairs the Ethics Committee. She has published several articles on health law related topics and lectures extensively on health law, litigation, and professional misconduct. Ms. Butler was appointed by the Governor to the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law in 2003.

Ms. Corcoran is a principal of James P. Corcoran, L.L.C., a practice focused on national insurance, regulatory, compliance and transactional issues. Prior to joining the practice, Ms. Corcoran held positions at Alliance of America, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, Lord, Bissell and Brook, L.L.P., Reliance National Insurance Company and American International Group. Ms. Corcoran is a member of the Special Education Parent Teacher Association (SEPTA) and serves as a Liaison for Families of the Community United for Students (FOCUS). She has served as a volunteer Special Advocate for Abused and Neglected Children (CASA), Big Brother – Big Sisters of America, and New Alternatives for Children. Ms. Corcoran was appointed to the Task Force in October of 2011 and is serving on the Advisory Council for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. She is a graduate of Loyola University School of Law, Dowling College and holds a Masters Equivalent in Secondary Education from Long Island University.

Dr. Linda V. DeCherrie is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is the Director of the Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors and Chelsea-Village House Call Programs, the largest academic home based primary care program in the country. In 2014, she became the Clinical Director of the Mobile Acute Care Team (MACT), which is a Hospital at Home program. Dr. DeCherrie graduated from the University of Chicago with a major in History and Philosophy of Science focusing on medical ethics. She then stayed at the University of Chicago for medical school graduating in 1999. Dr. DeCherrie completed her internal medicine residency in primary care at Boston University and was also a Chief Resident. During her fellowship in Geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, she was the Chief Fellow.Dr. DeCherrie was appointed to the New York State Task Force in 2016.

Sheryl Dicker is an Adjunct Professor at the City University of New York Department of Disability Studies where she teaches classes on disability law and policy. Ms. Dicker has worked for four decades on behalf of children challenged by poverty and disability in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and New York. Ms. Dicker began her career as a law student working on the Willowbrook case. She later served as an attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, a managing attorney of the American Bar Association Commission on the Mentally Disabled's Pennsylvania Advocacy Project as well as the founder and director of the Arkansas Developmental Disabilities Law Project. In l983, Ms. Dicker was appointed by then Gov. Bill Clinton as General Counsel of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. President Clinton later appointed her to the President's Committee on Mental Retardation. In 1991, she began her 16-year tenure as the Executive Director of the New York Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, the nation's first children's commission based in the judiciary. Ms. Dicker was a member of the faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she taught legal issues related to child welfare as well as disability. She has written some of the first publications about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and the law and Ms. Dicker has written extensively on the health and developmental needs of children. She has written two books, Stepping Stones: Successful Advocacy for Children(l990) and Reversing the Odds: Improving Outcomes for Babies in the Child Welfare System(2009) and is working on a third book.

Nancy Neveloff Dubler is a Senior Associate at the Montefiore-Einstein Center for Bioethics, and Professor-Emerita of Bioethics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She is the Consultant for Ethics for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, the nation's largest public hospital system. She received her B.A. from Barnard College and her LL.B. from Harvard Law School. Ms. Dubler founded and directed the Bioethics Consultation Service at Montefiore Medical Center for analysis of difficult clinical cases presenting ethical issues in the health care setting; this service uses mediation as its primary intervention. She lectures extensively and is the author of numerous articles and books on ethical issues in research with human subjects, termination of care, home care and long-term care, geriatrics, adolescent medicine, prison and jail health care, and AIDS. She founded and directed the Certificate Program in Bioethics and the Medical Humanities, conducted jointly by Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine with Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University. Her most recent books are: Ethics for Health Care Organizations: Theory, Case Studies, and Tools, with Jeffrey Blustein and Linda Farber Post (2002), The Ethics and Regulation of Research with Human Subjects, Coleman, Menikoff, Goldner and Dubler (2005); Handbook: For Health Care Ethics Committees, Post, Blustein and Dubler (2007); and Bioethics Mediation: A Guide to Shaping Shared Solutions, co-author, Carol Liebman (2004). Ms. Dubler was appointed to the New York State Task Force in 1999.

Joseph J. Fins is The E. William Davis, Jr. M.D. Professor of Medical Ethics and Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College where he is a Professor of Medicine, Professor of Medical Ethics in Neurology, Professor of Health Care Policy and Research, and Professor of Medicine in Psychiatry.He is the founding Chair of the Ethics Committee of New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and is an Attending Physician and the Director of Medical Ethics. A member of the Adjunct Faculty of Rockefeller University and Senior Attending Physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital, he co-directs the Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury at Weill Cornell and Rockefeller. At Yale Law School, he is the Solomon Center Distinguished Scholar in Medicine, Bioethics and the Law. He is a past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, former Governor of the American College of Physicians and Trustee Emeritus of Wesleyan University. Dr. Fins is a Member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, an elected Member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Honored Academic of the Real Academia Nacional de Medicina de España (Royal Academy of Medicine of Spain). He is recipient of the 2015 The Patricia Price Browne Prize in Biomedical Ethics from The University of Oklahoma School of Medicine. His most recent book is Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics & The Struggle for Consciousness.He was appointed to the Task Force in 2006.

Rev. Francis H. Geer is Rector of St. Philip's Church in the Highlands in Garrison, N.Y. From 1992 to 2002, he was the Director of Religious Services at St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. Previous positions include Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor at Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, California and Clinical Training Supervisor with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains at St. Mary's Hospital in San Francisco, California. At Stanford, Rev. Geer worked as Chaplain to the heart/lung transplant team with Dr. Norman Shumway. He is the author, with John Horgan, of "Where Was God on September 11." Rev. Geer attended Rutgers University and Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. He has served on the Task Force since 1994.

Abbe R. Gluck is Professor of Law and the Faculty Director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School. She is an expert on Congress and health law. Gluck has worked in in all levels of government, including serving as Senior Counsel and Special Advisor to the Attorney General under NJ Governor Jon Corzine; as Chief of Staff and Counsel to the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services under NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg; and as Speechwriter and Special Assistant to U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland. Gluck earned both her B.A. and J.D. from Yale, and clerked for then-Chief Judge Ralph K. Winter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is widely published in law and health journals and recently served as co-counsel on two Supreme Court briefs in challenges to the Affordable Care Act. She is also a Commissioner of the Uniform Law Commission and member of the American Law Institute.

Samuel Gorovitz, former dean of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, was Founding Director of the Renée Crown University Honors Program from 2004 to 2010, and is Professor of Philosophy in The College of Arts and Sciences, at Syracuse University. He led in the development of medical ethics and has published extensively on philosophy and public policy. His advice on college governance and on health policy has been widely sought, and he has given more than 200 invited lectures in many countries on five continents. Professor Gorovitz's publications include more than 130 articles, reviews and editorials in philosophical journals, medical journals, public policy journals, and newspapers. His two most recent books are Doctors' Dilemmas: Moral Conflict and Medical Care (1985) and Drawing the Line: Life, Death, and Ethical Choices in an American Hospital (1991 and 1993). He has been a member of the Task Force since 1988 and in 2007 was appointed by New York's governor to the Empire State Stem Cell Board. Professor Gorovitz received his B.S. from MIT and his Ph.D. from Stanford.

Dr. Henderson is the Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center and Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is a Certified Diabetic Educator practicing in the ambulatory and inpatient settings at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center and serves as Medical Director of NY Diabetes Care. By 4 gubernatorial appointments, since 2003 she has served as a Board member of the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct and has been a member of the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law since 1994. As a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, she was appointed and continues to serve as a member of the grievance and appeals committees. She is an active member of the American Medical Association, the National Medical Association, Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, The American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetic Educators. Dr. Henderson is an appointed member of advisory committees to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. Her academic investigations are focused on diabetes in pregnancy and the development of improved educational tools for individuals with diabetes. Dr. Henderson received an undergraduate degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and a medical degree from Loyola University in Maywood, Illinois. She completed her postgraduate residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois and a maternal fetal medicine fellowship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York.

Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., is a member of the Philosophy Department at Fordham University, where he has taught since his ordination as a Catholic priest in 1992.  At Fordham he also serves as the Editor-in-Chief of International Philosophical Quarterly and as Master of Queen's Court Residential College for Freshmen. In 2011 he was re-elected to a second term as the President of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. He regularly teaches courses on natural law ethics and on medieval philosophy.  He has produced videotaped lecture-courses on "Aristotle's Ethics," on "Natural Law and Human Nature," and most recently on "Biblical Wisdom Literature" for The Teaching Company.  In addition to publishing various articles and book chapters, he has authored a monograph entitled An Introduction to Medieval Philosophy: Basic Concepts (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).  He was appointed in 2014.

Rev. H. Hugh Maynard-Reid is the Director of the Pastoral Care Department in the North Brooklyn Health Network in the Health and Hospital Corporation in New York City. He is a Board Certified Chaplain and a Credentialed Addiction and Substance Abuse Counselor by the State of New York. He also has Certification in Human and Medical Bioethics. Previously, Rev. Maynard-Reid served as an ordained minister for 15 years in New York City. He was also the Associate Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Studies at Northern Caribbean University (formerly West Indies College) and Adjunct Professor at Andrews University. He is a member of the Association of Professional Chaplains and serves the Regional Certification team and the Multi-cultural Committee. Rev. Maynard-Reid is an Advisory Member of the Catholic Health Services of Long Island Pastoral Education and Chaplaincy services. He has served as a member of the Institutional Review Board and is a member of the Ethics Committee in the North Brooklyn Health Network. As a member of the Brooklyn Ecumenical Advisory, his community service work centers on community leaders' health education. Rev. Maynard-Reid also currently sits on the Ethics Committee of the Empire State Stem Cell Board and was appointed to the Task Force in 2009. He attended West Indies College for his undergraduate degree, and Rev. Maynard-Reid obtained graduate degrees from Andrews University and Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion.

John D. Murnane is an attorney who has been a member of the Task Force on Life and the Law since 1997. He was one of John Cardinal O'Connor's appointees to the Public Policy Committee of the New York State Catholic Conference from 1994 to 2002. He graduated cum laude with a B.S. from the University of Notre Dame, and obtained his J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He is a partner in the New York office of Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto, an intellectual property law firm, where he is a member of the Management Committee. He has primarily litigated patent cases since 1980. Since the early 1990s, he has advised and represented pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in numerous matters, including litigations involving Plavix®, Abilify®, Sensipar®, and hormone replacement therapy. He has also been the lead counsel in patent cases involving products in a variety of other technological fields. He has taught patent law at Fordham University Law School and Hofstra University Law School. From 1986 to 1989, he served as an arbitrator in the New York City Small Claims Court. Mr. Murnane is a past president of the New York Intellectual Property Law Association, where he served as a director and officer for 13 years. He is also a past president of the Parish Council of St. John and St. Mary Church in Chappaqua, N.Y.

Karen Porter is the executive director of Brooklyn Law School's Center for Health, Science, and Public Policy and runs the Health Law Clinic. She has taught courses at Washington University Law School on law and medicine, and AIDS and the law, and she has authored numerous publications related to AIDS policy. Prior to teaching, Ms. Porter held a post-doctoral fellowship at Montefiore Medical Center/The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine. Her background also includes work as a senior policy analyst and staff counsel to the National Commission on AIDS. She was appointed to the Task Force in 2014.

Robert N. Swidler is V.P. Legal Affairs for St. Peter's Health Partners, a not-for-profit health care system in New York's Capital Region that includes five hospitals, nursing homes, home care, hospice, a PACE program. senior residences and other affiliates. He is also a member of the faculty of both Albany Medical Center's Alden March Bioethics Institute and the Union College/Mt. Sinai School of Medicine Bioethics Program. Previously, Mr. Swidler was General Counsel to Northeast Health, a partner at Hiscock & Barclay, Deputy Commissioner and Counsel to the New York State Office of Mental Health, and Assistant Counsel to Governor Mario Cuomo. Mr. Swidler served as staff counsel to the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law from 1985 to 1990, where he helped develop the Task Force's proposals on brain death, do-not-resuscitate orders, health care proxies and organ transplantation. From 2007-2010, Mr. Swidler was a member of the Empire State Stem Cell Board, where he served on the Board's Ethics Committee. Mr. Swidler has written numerous articles on health law topics, and co-authored chapters in the Legal Manual for New York Physicians on informed consent and life-sustaining treatment decisions. He was chair of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Health Law Section from 1999 to 2000 and has for over ten years been the Editor of the NYSBA Health Law Journal. Mr. Swidler is a graduate of Columbia Law School and SUNY at Binghamton. He was appointed to the Task Force in 2010.

Sally True is a founding partner and member of True & Walsh, LLP in Ithaca, N.Y. Her practice areas include health care, estate administration and planning, and corporate matters. She has also counseled and represented hospitals, residential care facilities, and other institutional health care providers in all types of corporate, administrative, and legal affairs. From 1997 to 1999, Ms. True previously was special counsel to the New York State Health Department for the conversion of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. to a public benefit corporation. She also has had extensive experience representing several upstate hospitals and helped develop and implement the legal component of hospital risk management programs. Ms. True is a member of several organizations, including the American Health Lawyers Association, New York State Bar Association, and the Finance Council of St. Catherine's of Sienna in Ithaca, N.Y. She is admitted to practice law in New York and the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. Ms. True received her J.D. from Cornell Law School and completed her undergraduate education at Smith College. She has been a member of the Task Force since 1997.