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Medicine and Inequality

I am committed to engaging with issues of inequality and oppression, in their many forms, within my bioethical and philosophical scholarship. For several years, I have argued that the practice of non-consensual educational pelvic exams on anesthetized patients by medical students is morally problematic and that all patients should have the opportunity to consent for an intimate exam is performed on their unconscious body. This scholarship, along with the legal advocacy of Robin Wilson’s team at the Epstein Program and the voices of many others, has led to a sweeping legislative shift in the United States, with 13 new laws requiring consent for pelvic exams on anesthetized patients being passed since 2021, and dozens being introduced.

I have also written about issues related to race and medical research, including how white ignorance shows up in pain research and how placebo /nocebo effects are likely to be unfairly distributed across populations as a result of the unequal treatment of racialized patients in the clinical encounter. Further work on inequality and medicine includes a critical discussion of the role of personal responsibility in decisions related to resource allocation in health care, an investigation of the push away from using the term ‘medically assisted suicide’, and a critical examination of the diagnosis 'excited delirium'.


Representative Work:​

·    Byju, A., Friesen, P., (2023) Making Up Monsters, Redirecting Blame: An Examination of Excited Delirium. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology 

·    Friesen, P. (2020) Trust in Health Care after the Death of Joyce Echaquan. Impact Ethics.

·    Friesen, P. (2018) Educational pelvic exams on anesthetized women: why consent mattersBioethics. 32(5), 298-307.

·    Friesen, P. (2016). Personal responsibility within health policy: unethical and ineffectiveJournal of Medical Ethics.

Recent/ Forthcoming Work: ​

·    Friesen, P., Gligorov, N., (2022) White Ignorance in Pain Research: Racial Differences and Racial DisparitiesKennedy Institute of Ethics Journal.

·    Friesen, P., Perez, T., Towle, S., (2021) Birthing Alone: An Ethical Analysis of Pandemic Policies Banning Birthing Partners International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 

Recent/ Upcoming Talks:

·   Teach-In for Reproductive Justice: Bodily Autonomy, Reproductive Destiny, and Anti-Abortion Policy (April 15th, 2024), American Medical Student Association

·    “Consent and Intimate Exams on Anesthetized Patients: Perspectives and Experiences of Canadian Medical Students” (Nov 2nd, 2023) at the Institute for Health Sciences Education, McGill University

Media Coverage:

·    The New York Times, This American LifeThe Associated PressVICEELLEABC4WBAL MarylandForbesBust, MedscapeMediumGothamistCapital GazetteDeseret NewsCommonwealthThe BridgeHouston ChronicleSnopesThrowing Shade

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