Institute of Clinical Bioethics Researches Safe Injection Sites

Medical ethicist Peter Clark, S.J., institute director, to head study team

Thursday, March 22, 2018

PHILADELPHIA (March 22, 2018) — As America struggles with the opioid epidemic, experts across all fields search for answers. In Pennsylvania alone, drug-related visits to emergency rooms spiked 81 percent over the last 14 months, one of the highest increases among 16 states recently studied by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Saint Joseph’s University’s Institute for Clinical Bioethics (ICB) is studying possible solutions to the problem. Consulting with Philadelphia’s Office of the Mayor, Office of the District Attorney and the Health Commissioner, the ICB is researching the effectiveness of safe injection sites to make recommendations on whether Philadelphia should implement the practice, which provides supervised injections of drugs to prevent accidental overdoses.

“Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of death due to overdose in any city in the country, and it is imperative that we try numerous methods to save these lives,” says ICB director Peter Clark, S.J. ’75. “As a Jesuit university that follows Ignatian values and ideals, it makes sense for Saint Joseph’s to be on the forefront of helping these individuals.”

The study will be conducted by ICB fellows, two residents at Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia, and four medical students at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), including SJU alum Sam Schadt ’14 and MBA candidate John Dubensky. The early stages of the research have focused on a safe injection initiative in Vancover, British Columbia.

“Previous papers on that model have shown decreased drug overdoes and deaths, increased enrollment by drug addicts into rehabilitation, and fewer used needles being left in parks and on street corners,”  Fr. Clark says.

The project is funded in part by a grant from former SJU trustee Marlene Dooner ’83 and Brian Dooner ’83.

“I have known Fr. Clark for many years, and I am highly supportive of the institute’s work in our city and the region,” says Brian. “Given the severity of the opioid crisis in the Delaware Valley, I felt that the ICB, Saint Joseph’s and the community at large would benefit from the examination of the ethical and moral questions related to addiction.”

Fr. Clark notes that the study is timely for a city in desperate need of ideas to fight the crisis.

“We have to do something immediately to deal with this epidemic in the city,” he explains. “Human lives are being lost and medical resources are being used on these overdose cases. Unless we take drastic steps, like the safe injection site initiative, more lives will be lost and more medical resources wasted.”

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Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni — over 68,000 strong — provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

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