Phoebe Friesen

Assistant Professor

514-398-6336 | phoebe.friesen [at] | 3647 Peel, 302

Phoebe Friesen is an Assistant Professor in the Biomedical Ethics Unit and the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the CUNY Graduate Center and an M.A. in philosophy from Western University. From 2018 – 2019 she worked as a Post Doctoral Fellow at the Ethox Centre at the University of Oxford.


Research Interests

Dr. Friesen’s interests span several questions that arise at the intersections of medical ethics, psychiatry, philosophy of science, and research ethics. Among other topics, she has written about the harms of failing to acknowledge the impact of the placebo effect in both research and clinical contexts, the issue of inconsistency within and across research ethics boards, the role of responsibility in the allocation of health care resources, the promises and challenges related to participatory research, and the importance of requiring consent for educational pelvic examinations on women under anesthetic. For more information, visit her website.

Selected Publications

Shevlin, H., Friesen, P. (2020) Pain, Placebo, and Cognitive Penetration. Mind and Language. (forthcoming) Friesen, P. (2020) Distancing Medically Assisted Dying from Suicide: Is It Justified? The Hastings Center Report. (forthcoming)

Friesen, P. (2020) Towards an Account of the Placebo Effect: A Critical Evaluation Alongside Current Evidence", Biology & Philosophy.

Friesen, P., Persaud, R. D., Wilson, R. F. (2020) Legislative Alert: The Ban on Unauthorized Pelvic Exams. New York State Bar Association Health Law Journal.

Friesen, P., Lignou, S., Sheehan, M., Singh, I. (2019) Measuring the Impact of Participatory Research in Psychiatry: How the search for epistemic justifications obscures ethical considerations. Health Expectations. Special Issue: Showcasing Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement in Mental Health Research

Friesen, P. (2019) Placebos as a Source of Agency: Evidence and Implications. Frontiers in Psychiatry (Psychosomatic Medicine). Special Issue: Placebo and Nocebo Effects in Psychiatry and Beyond, Eds. Enck, P., Weimer, K., Colloca, L., Dodd, S.

Friesen, P. (2019) Expanding Outcome Measures in Schizophrenia Research: Does RDoC Pose a Threat? Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology.

Shevlin, H., Friesen, P. (2019) Pain, Placebo, and Cognitive Penetration. Mind and Language.

Friesen, P., & O’Leary, K. (2019). Machine learning and suicide prevention: considering context as a guide to ethical design, Mental Health as Public Health: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Ethics of Prevention, Elsevier, Eds. Cratsley, K., and Radden, J.

Friesen, P., Yusof, A., Sheehan, M. (2019) Should the Decisions of Institutional Review Boards be Consistent? Ethics and Human Research.

Friesen, P. (2019) Mesmer, the Placebo Effect, and the Efficacy Paradox: Lessons for Evidence Based Medicine and Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Critical Public Health. Special Issue: Pseudoscience and Global Health, Eds. Kingori, P. and Gerrets, R.

Friesen, P., Redman, B., & Caplan, A. L. (2018) Of Straws, Camels, Research Regulation, and IRBs. Therapeutic Innovation and Regulatory Science.

Friesen, P., & Blease, C. (2018) Placebo Effects and Health Disparities: An unjust and unexplored connection, Journal of Medical Ethics.

Friesen, P. (2018) Educational Pelvic Exams on Anesthetized Women: Why Consent Matters Bioethics. 32(5), 298-307.

Yuste, R., Goering, S., Bi, G., Carmena, J.M., Carter, A., Fins, J.J., Friesen, P., Gallant, J., Huggins, J.E., Illes, J., Kellmeyer, P., Klein, E., Marblestone, A., Mitchell, C., Parens, E., Pham, M., Rubel, A., Sadato, N., Sullivan, L.S., Teicher, M., Wasserman, D., Wexler, A., Whittaker, M., & Wolpaw, J. (2017) Four ethical priorities for neurotechnologies and AI. Nature News, 551 (7679), 159.

Friesen, P., Kearns, L., Redman, B., & Caplan, A. L. (2017). Rethinking the Belmont Report? The American Journal of Bioethics, 17(7), 15-21.

Friesen, P., Kearns, L., Redman, B. K., & Caplan, A. L. (2017). Extending Ethical Strides: From Tribal IRBs to the Bronx Community Research Review Board. The American Journal of Bioethics, 17 (11), W5-W8.

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

Friesen, P., Lawrence, R. E., Brucato, G., R, G. R., & Dixon, L. (2016). Hopes and Expectations Regarding Genetic Testing for Schizophrenia Among Young Adults at Clinical High-Risk for Psychosis. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 22(6), 442-449.

Courses Given

Dr. Friesen teaches BIOE-680 (Bioethical Theory), a required course in the Specialization in Bioethics Master’s Program, supervises graduate students, and offers an annual elective (topics change from year to year) for fourth year students in McGill’s medical program.

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