Michelle Mello

Michelle Mello

Adjunct Professor of Law and Public Health

Department of Health Policy and Management

677 Huntington Avenue
Kresge Building Room 407
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Phone: 617.432.0217

Harvard Affiliations

Director, Program in Law and Public Health

Lab Fellow, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Faculty Affiliate, Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School

Chair, HSPH Institutional Review Board

Research Interests

Dr. Mello conducts empirical research into issues at the intersection of law, ethics, and health policy. She is the author of more than 120 articles and book chapters on the medical malpractice system, medical errors and patient safety, research ethics, the obesity epidemic, pharmaceutical regulation, and other topics. Among other current projects, Dr. Mello is studying disclosure and compensation of medical injuries as the recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research and as the lead evaluator for two large-scale federal demonstration projects of “communication-and-resolution” programs, in which hospitals and liability insurers communicate honestly with patients about unanticipated care outcomes, apologize, and in appropriate cases, proactively offer compensation. Dr. Mello serves as a Key Consultant to the National Program Office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s program in Public Health Law Research. In 2013, she was elected to the Institute of Medicine.

Current and Recent Research Projects

Responding Justly to Patients Injured by Medical Care 

This project is examining how policy levers such as mandatory disclosure laws and laws protecting apologies from use in malpractice litigation are affecting the practice of disclosing medical errors and injuries to patients.  It is also evaluating several innovative institutional programs that couple disclosures with offers of compensation.  More

Design of a Reliable System of Medical Justice 

The goal of this study is to provide research to support demonstration projects of an administrative compensation system for medical injury, called “health courts”. The project is investigating issues such as compensation criteria, costs, appropriate damages, constitutionality, and relationship of the system to patient safety.  More


State Policy Approaches to Foster Uptake of the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

The major goal of this project was to study the legal and policy approaches that states are taking to fostering uptake of the HPV vaccine. Articles from the project discuss the politics of vaccination policy making and the determinants of policy outcomes, including the role of the HPV vaccine’s manufacturer. More

Ethical Issues in the Pharmaceutical Industry

This project examined a series of legal and ethical challenges confronting the pharmaceutical industry, including issues of drug safety, disclosure of clinical trial data, and relationships with academic researchers.  More

Selected Professional Affiliations

Member, Massachusetts Bar

Key Consultant, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Member and past member of Board of Directors, AcademyHealth

Member, Society for Empirical Legal Studies

Honors and Awards

Member, Institute of Medicine

Alice S. Hersh New Investigator Award, AcademyHealth

Greenwall Faculty Scholar

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research

Citations for Excellence in Teaching, Harvard School of Public Health

Courses Taught

Public Health Law
Ethical Basis of the Practice of Public Health


J.D., 2000, Yale Law School
Ph.D., 1999, Health Policy and Administration, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
M.Phil., 1995, Comparative Social Research, Oxford University
B.A., 1993, Political Science and Applied Ethics, Stanford University

Selected Publications

Mello MM, Clarridge BR, Studdert DM.  Academic medical centers’ standards for clinical-trial agreements with industry. N Engl J Med 2005;352:2202-2210.  Read it

Mello MM, Brennan TA. Deterrence of medical errors: theory and evidence for malpractice reform. Texas Law Rev 2002;80:1595-1637.

Studdert DM, Mello MM, Gawande AA, Gandhi TK, Kachalia A, Yoon C, Puopolo AL, Brennan TA. Claims, errors, and compensation payments in medical malpractice litigation. N Engl J Med 2006;354:2024-2033.  Read it

Mello MM, Studdert DM, Brennan TA.  Obesity–the new frontier of public health law.  N Engl J Med 2006;354(24):2601-2610.Read it

Mello MM, Studdert DM. Deconstructing negligence: the role of individual and system factors in causing medical injuries. Georgetown Law J 2008;96:599-623.  Read it

Podcasts and Video

Medical Liability: The role of “health courts” in liability reform:http://www.rwjf.org/pr/product.jsp?id=20391

Obesity and Chronic Disease Prevention: How far can employer wellness programs legally go to encourage employees to adopt healthier behaviors?http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/multimedia/Audio/2008/mello08

Obesity and Chronic Disease Prevention: New York City’s innovative legal initiatives to regulate trans fat and require menu labels indicating calorie counts at chain restaurants:http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/multimedia/audio/2009/Mello_Tran