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Drugs and Us

Drugs and Us

We live in a world surrounded by drugs: pharmaceuticals that treat our serious illnesses; over-the-counter remedies for our minor ailments; herbal drugs we think will enhance our health; common-use drugs like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol that we use for pleasure; religious-use drugs like peyote and ayahuasca; sports-enhancement drugs that are banned in competition but are nevertheless in widespread use; and of course illegal street, club, and party drugs–drugs that provide a wide range of altered experience but sometimes also kill.

Students in this Praxis Lab will address issues in drug classification, drug policy, drug regulation, and practical measures for dealing with drugs of all sorts.  The Praxis Lab will take into account historical reasons for drug classification; cultural and religious factors; drugs in specific contexts like legal Death with Dignity or execution imposed within the criminal justice system.  It will consider performance enhancing drugs, used in a vast range of contexts from the musical concert to the long-haul military flight; it will seek to decipher complex issues about addiction; it will look at institutions like Drug Court and various 12-step programs; and it will consider seemingly everyday issues about matters like pain and pain relief, drugs and driving, and the use of hallucinogens for everything from religious experience to palliative care.  It will attend to drug pricing in medicine and drug supply on the street. This broad sweep of topics will form the background for the project to be developed during the second semester of this Praxis Lab.

Final Report


Margaret P. Battin, PhD – Distinguished Professor, Philosophy and Adjunct Professor, Internal Medicine and Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities

If you want to address me formally, it’s Margaret Pabst Battin, M.F.A., PhD., Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine, Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities, at the University of Utah, or, for short, Peggy.  You could make it more ostentatious by pointing out that I’ve authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited at least twenty books (I think I’ve lost count), including works on philosophical issues in suicide, case-puzzles in aesthetics, ethical issues in organized religion, and various topics in bioethics.  You could embellish it by observing that I’ve published two collections of essays on end-of-life issues, The Least Worst Death and Ending Life, and have been the lead for two multi-authored projects, Drugs and Justice and The Patient as Victim and Vector: Ethics and Infectious Disease.  In 1997, I won the University of Utah’s Distinguished Research award, and in 2000, received the Rosenblatt Prize, the University’s most prestigious award. You can find a TEDMED talk I did in 2014 by googling the web. This is all very flattering, but what’s important to me is not just what I’ve done in the past, but what I’m working on now: a comprehensive historical sourcebook on ethical issues in suicide, being published by Oxford, a multi-co-authored volume of case-puzzles about issues in disability (also Oxford), and a book on large-scale reproductive problems of the globe, including population growth and decline, teen pregnancy, abortion, and male roles in contraception, along with new ideas like urban design or thought-experiments or even how to redesign the ICU. Of course, there’s hardly ever enough time, but big new make-the-world-a better-place ideas, the very kind of thing a Praxis Lab is intended to generate, seem to me what it’s all about.

Jennifer H. Edwards, MD

I am a practicing intensivist, which means I work in the intensive care unit. I completed a residency in Emergency Medicine, and a fellowship in Critical Care Medicine. For 3+ years I was on faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, where I taught medical students, residents and fellows, and created and ran their Morbidity and Mortality conference. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy, and I am currently taking Philosophy courses at the University of Utah. I have found that philosophy, ethics and difficult ‘life decisions’ play a prominent role in the ICU, and to some extent in many areas of medicine. “How we die” is a particular interest of mine.

Roger A. Freedman, M.D. – Professor (Clinical), Department of Medicine

I am a practicing cardiologist at University Hospital, a position I have held for over 20 years. My practice is about 50% outpatient care and about 50% procedures, such as pacemaker implants. For years I have been teaching medical students, residents and fellows, and I currently have a leadership role in cardiology fellowship training at U. I have also held leadership roles in Contracting for University physicians and the University Hospital, which involves negotiating payments from the various insurance payers in the state. This Praxis Lab will be my first experience teaching undergraduates (since I was a TA in college…).

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