Thomas H. Murray, PhD

Thomas H. Murray, PhD

President and CEO Emeritus,
The Hastings Center

Thomas H. Murray, PhD, is President and CEO Emeritus of The Hastings Center and was previously Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics in the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. His areas of expertise include ethics and performance-enhancing drugs in sports; parents, children and reproductive technologies; genetics and genomics; and organ donation and transplantation.

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On Day 1, Prof. Murray talks about his childhood in Philadelphia, including his Irish-Italian heritage, Catholic school, and an early love of sports. He describes his time at Temple University, where he earned his BA in Psychology in 1968. In the early 1970s, while pursuing his PhD at Princeton University, Prof. Murray assisted his advisor in a deception research study and, as a personal reaction to the nature of the study’s experiments, subsequently turned his attention to ethics. Prof. Murray also attributes his teaching and colleagues at New College in 1971 as opening his thinking to ethical questions.

Prof. Murray shares memories of being a young parent during a fellowship at Yale from 1978-1979. He describes his experiences at The Hastings Center in 1979 as a Fellow and his work as a Research Associate there from 1980-1984. Memories shared include: working with Ruth Macklin, Daniel Callahan, and Willard Gaylin; group meals; and beginning his work with Carol Levine and Ronald Bayer on AIDS. Prof. Murray lists the early research focuses of the Center and defines the term “bioethics.”

Prof. Murray discusses the use of drugs in sports, one of his significant research focuses: relatedly, he shares a story of bringing Philadelphia Eagles players to The Hastings Center as part of this research. He describes his experiences as the first Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Ethical Issues Review Panel, and as a member of the United States Olympics Committee for 15 years.

On Day 2, Prof. Murray continues his discussion of sport, including issues of gender and his book Good Sport: Why Our Games Matter–And How Doping Undermines Them (2017). He discusses leaving The Hastings Center in 1984 and credits The Hastings Center community as inspiration for work he continued at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He talks about spending summers in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and moving to Cleveland, Ohio to serve as (founding) Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in 1986. He credits Ronald A. Carson’s work as Director of the Institute for Medical Humanities at Galveston, and The Hastings Center’s vibrant research community as significant influences for when developing the Center at CWRU and its masters program.

Prof. Murray describes his return to The Hastings Center as President and CEO in 1999, including his goals and fundraising duties. He briefly explains the structure and roles for Fellows at the Center. He briefly discusses cognitive enhancement. He also speaks about the murder of his youngest daughter, Emily Murray, and notes the way this experience led to his considerations of the death penalty.

Prof. Murray discusses his work on genetic testing in the workplace; potential risks involved with designer babies and genetic technologies; his experience with the Human Genome Project on the use of genetic information in insurance; and his experience delivering expert testimony in the areas of asbestos regulation and tobacco.

Prof. Murray concludes the interview by mentioning areas he wishes to see emerge in the future of bioethics, including issues related to justice, gender, race, class, and international bioethics.

This interview may be of interest to those wishing to learn more about: the history of bioethics in the United States; the fields of bioethics and social psychology; regional histories of bioethics (Midwest, Northeast); single parenthood as a bioethicist; bioethics center formation and leadership; reproductive technologies; genetic technologies; and bioethics during the 1980s.

You can find full audio, transcript, and other materials in the Moral Histories Archive 

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