Debate: Ethics of Surgically Implanting Drug Device in psychiatric patients

Wed, 5 Nov 2003

An AHRP Infomail (October 7, 2003) criticizing the ethics of University of Pennsylvania’s planned surgical “drug implant” experiment in psychiatric patients, prompted a debate between AHRP president, Vera Sharav, and bioethicist, Paul Root Wolpe, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Departments of Psychiatry and Sociology, and member of the University’s Center for Bioethics, who is also Chief of Bioethics National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). See:

The experiment is sponsored by two organizations that receive tens of millions of dollars annually in pharmaceutical company support–the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia And Depression (NARSAD)–and by a private foundation that also sponsors aggressive lobbying efforts for state legislation to allow forced drugging of psychiatric patients. Given such sponsoring interest groups AHRP suspects that the undeclared purpose of testing the device in psychiatric patients is to perfect technology for forced drug compliance.

In his final note of criticism, Paul Wolpe ventured beyond my critique of bioethicists who help pave the way for legitimizing dubious utilization of “drug implant” technology to coerce mentally disabled people to take antipsychotic drugs. The drugs are known to cause severe discomfort, debilitating adverse effects–such as neurological damage and drug-induced diabetes in a significant number of patients. See: Why AHRP opposes surgical “drug implant” for psychiatric patients at: See also:

Dr. Wolpe used his final exchange with me to lash out at Dr. David Healy, a psychiatrist whose courage and professional integrity collided with the corporate interests of a pharmaceutical giant. His case is a cause celebre in academic circles for it demonstrates the incompatibility of the corporate academy and academic freedom. See:

To be fair, I invited Dr. Healy to respond to Paul Wolpe’s accusations. See:

AHRP invites comments from the public and the bioethics / medical community about the ethics of surgical “drug implant” experiments whose undeclared purpose is to enable state governments to enforce drug compliance in unwilling patients.

Vera Sharav