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Super Soldiers? The Ethics of Drugs in Warfare
4:00PM - 5:00PM ET


In the run-up to World War Two, the Nazi armed forces began distributing a new drug to their soldiers. Pervitin – an early form of crystal meth – could keep combatants awake for as long as 50 hours, enabling them to march and fight for days on end. It could just as easily kill them: men who took the drug could die from heart failure, experience hallucinations, or suffer depression.  

This state-sanctioned methamphetamine use is just one example of how drugs have been deployed on the battlefield throughout history and across cultures, and how badly they can harm the soldiers, pilots, and sailors who use them. Fighters take drugs not only for energy – like the “go pills,” stimulants used by American combatants in Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s – but to ready themselves for battle or to numb the traumatic experience of warfare.  

As the pharmaceutical industry develops new drugs and the nature of war itself changes, Perry World House will explore the medical ethics of soldiers taking drugs to enhance their performance, and the legal consequences of using substances and hallucinogens in warfare. 


Lukasz Kamieński is an associate professor at the Jagiellonian University and the author of Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare. He has served as a visiting fellow at LSE IDEAS and the Center for International Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science, as well as a visiting research fellow at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of National Security Affairs in Monterey, CA. In 1999, Kamieński received a scholarship to study at the University of Oxford from the Stefan Batory Foundation and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is a co-founder of the MA in Transatlantic Studies program at the Jagiellonian University’s Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora, serving as its head from 2007 to 2011. He holds a PhD and an MA in political science from the Jagiellonian University as well as an MSc in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

Claire Finkelstein is the Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the founder and faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, a nonpartisan interdisciplinary institute affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). She is a distinguished research fellow at APPC and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. An expert in the law of armed conflict, military ethics, national security law, and professional ethics, she is a co-editor (with Jens David Ohlin) of The Oxford Series in Ethics, National Security, and the Rule of Law, and an editor of six of its volumes, including Cyber War: Law and Ethics for Virtual Conflicts; Weighing Lives in War; and Preserving Cultural Heritage in Times of War. She has published widely in national security and democratic governance, including in media and popular press, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Hill, Slate, Bloomberg News, and elsewhere. 

Jonathan D. Moreno is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania where he is a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor. At Penn he is also professor of medical ethics and health policy, of history and sociology of science, and of philosophy. Moreno is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine. He has served as a staff member or adviser to many governmental and non-governmental organizations, including three US presidential commissions, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee. Moreno is currently a member of the Bayer Bioethics Council. Currently he is an investigator on a $1.1 million Department of Defense Minerva Research Initiative project on artificial intelligence-enabled neurotechnologies and warfighters. His most recent books are Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die: Bioethics and the Transformation of Healthcare in America, co-authored with former Penn president Amy Gutmann; and The Brain in Context: A Pragmatic Guide to Neuroscience, written with neuroscientist Jay Schulkin.  


Beth Simmons is an Andrea Mitchell Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor of Law, Political Science and Business Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. Supported by the National Science Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation, Simmons is currently researching the paradox of hardening international borders in an era of globalization. Two of her books, Who Adjusts? Domestic Sources of Foreign Economic Policy During the Interwar Years (2004) and Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics (2009) won the American Political Science Association's Woodrow Wilson Award for the best book published in the United States on government, politics, or international affairs. The latter was also recognized by the American Society for International Law, the International Social Science Council, and the International Studies Association as the best book of the year in 2010. Simmons directed the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, is a past president of the International Studies Association, and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Simmons leads the Borders and Boundaries Project, part of the Global Shifts theme at Perry World House. Her research group is documenting and will explain the paradox of hardening international borders between states in an era of globalization using satellite imagery as evidence of state presence at international border crossings.