In Memoriam: Dr. Jay Katz, Illuminator of ‘The Silent World of Doctor and Patient’

Dr. Jay Katz, an eminent scholar in reproductive technology law and ethics who served on the Yale Law School faculty for over five decades, died of heart failure on Nov. 17 in New Haven. He was 86 years old.

Katz was the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor Emeritus of Law, Medicine and Psychiatry and the Harvey L. Karp Professorial Lecturer in Law and Psychoanalysis. His scholarship focused on psychoanalysis and law, family law, and law and medicine.

“As a doctor steeped in the law, Jay Katz illuminated better than anyone has before or since the complex of medical, legal and ethical choices that haunt the silent world of doctor and patient,” says Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh.

Born in Zwickau, Germany, in 1922, Katz graduated from the University of Vermont in 1944 and earned an M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School in 1949. After completing his internship and residency in New York, he served as a first lieutenant and captain of the United States Air Force Hospital at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. He came to Yale in 1953 and was soon named chief resident of the outpatient clinic at the School of Medicine. Katz began teaching psychiatry at Yale in 1955 and psychiatry and law in 1958 when he was named an assistant professor.

Katz was a member of a committee that prepared the Connecticut law governing the privilege between patient and psychotherapist, enacted in 1961, which served as a model for the Federal Rules of Evidence for all 50 states. Working with Yale Law School colleague Joseph Goldstein in the mid-1980s, he did groundbreaking work in the areas of both family law and psychiatry and law. With Goldstein, he co-authored “The Family and the Law” and “Psychoanlysis, Psychiatry and Law” (also with Alan M. Dershowitz). His other books include “Experimentation with Human Beings,” “Catastrophic Diseases: Who Decides What?” (with Alexander M. Capron) and “The Silent World of Doctor and Patient.”

Katz also served on the national panel that studied and exposed the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, which began in 1932 and was not uncovered until the 1970s. He was a passionate proponent of the concept of truly informed consent and wrote extensively on the subject. He was an outspoken opponent of the use of data obtained from Nazi experimentation and was the first to call for a national board to oversee human experimentation. He was later appointed by President Bill Clinton LAW ‘73 as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.

In addition, Katz was an opponent of the criminal prosecution of pregnant women, citing privacy and equal protection concerns.

“Jay Katz was a man of great wisdom and compassion,” says Robert Burt, the Alexander M. Bickel Professor of Law. “He had a profound influence on biomedical ethics, on his students during his long tenure at Yale Law School, and on his friends. Jay’s passionate respect for the autonomy of individuals, coupled with his deeply empathetic understanding of individuals’ psychological vulnerabilities, was the foundation stone for this influence in every case.”

Katz received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from both the University of Northwestern Ohio’s College of Medicine and the University of Vermont. He received many professional awards, including the American Psychiatric Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 1998 and its Isaac Ray Award; the American College of Physician’s William C. Menninger Memorial Award; the Hasting Center’s Henry Knowles Beecher Award; and the American Society of Law and Medicine Second President’s Award. In 1981, he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and in 1999 he was selected a finalist for the Yale Law Women Teaching Award.

Katz’s first wife, Esta Mae, predeceased him in 1987. He is survived by his second wife, Marilyn; a son, Daniel; two daughters, Sally (LAW ‘82) and Amy; two stepdaughters, Mary and Emily; a brother, Norman; and four grandchildren.

Contributions in his memory can be made to the Faculty Memorial Fund at Yale Law School. For more information, contact the Yale Law School Development Office at (203) 432-1664.

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