Johan C. Bester

Director of Bioethics
Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
Expertise: Vaccines, Bioethics, Clinical Ethics, Medical Education


Johan Bester is an expert on ethical aspects of vaccinations, bioethics, medical education, and pediatric ethics. Bester has studied issues around vaccination ethics and policy, including informed consent, moral decision making and public health ethics. Bester's research specialties include clinical ethics practice, bioethical analysis, and ethics of vaccinations with an emphasis on the measles vaccination.

A former physician, Bester completed medical training in South Africa, and practiced family and emergency medicine for 12 years in a variety of settings, including South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Prior to joining UNLV School of Medicine, Bester was a clinical assistant professor at the University of Calgary, where he developed and delivered ethics curriculum and workshops. In 2016, Bester completed a year of fellowship training in clinical ethics at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and spent an additional year on staff as a clinical ethicist. He taught bioethics in the medical school and medical center, engaged in bioethics scholarship and publication, and provided ethics consultations. 

Bester's research has been published in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, JAMA Pediatrics, AMA Journal of Ethics, and the American Journal of Bioethics, among others.


  • MB.Ch.B., Medicine and Surgery, Stellenbosch University
  • Ph.D., Philosophy, Stellenbosch University
  • M.Phil., Philosophy, Stellenbosch University

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Johan C. Bester In The News
September 6, 2019
If your child attends school or day care, you probably know vaccines are required for attendance. But you might not realize some rules have recently changed in certain areas. For example, this year New York state stopped allowing families to take a religious exemption to vaccines required for school. California vaccine law also stopped allowing religious exemptions in 2015.
Washington Post
June 26, 2019
As the bioethicist Johan C. Bester wrote in 2018: “The correct lens through which to view vaccination is moral obligation — we are obligated to provide children with protection against measles. Parents who have children eligible for vaccination are obligated to facilitate vaccination. Parents who have children that cannot receive vaccination are obligated to advocate for sufficient vaccine uptake in the general population. … Measles vaccination rightly belongs to the realm of parental obligation, a duty owed to the child and to society.”
Orlando Sentinel
May 8, 2019
There have been more than 760 cases of measles in 23 states, including two in Florida. This is the highest number of cases recorded in the United States in the past 25 years, and the majority of infected people have not been vaccinated.
April 29, 2019
Measles cases in the United States reached a new high this week, with 695 cases reported to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surpassing the previous record since the disease was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. The highly contagious disease, now present in 22 states, has been spreading rapidly through communities where people are unvaccinated.

Articles Featuring Johan C. Bester

collage of 8 people
PeopleJuly 10, 2019
Charter class at School of Medicine starts moving into clinical training.
Campus NewsJune 26, 2019
A collection of news stories highlighting the people and programs of UNLV.
A health care provider administers a vaccination to a baby.
Business and CommunityApril 11, 2019
UNLV School of Medicine director of bioethics addresses the role of vaccinations and the controversy surrounding them.