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.”