President & CEO, Praitie Studios LLC
President & CEO, Jobs Logger LLC
Doctor of Liberal Studies, Georgetown University, ‘25
Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts, University of Pennsylvania ‘19
Master of Liberal Arts, Harvard University ‘17
Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Yale University ‘00
When Daniel E. Murray (Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts ‘19) completed his first Master of Liberal Arts degree, he knew he had a compelling research topic: physician-assisted suicide (PAS) laws in the US. He also felt that he had more work to do before he could do this topic justice in his doctoral research. Penn’s Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts proved to be an ideal next step. As a student in the MPhil program, Daniel had the flexibility to select courses from across the University and tailor his curriculum to his research and goals as a scholar.
“This program really fills a need in the academic arena,” Daniel reflects, “especially for people like me who are preparing for advanced research and don’t want to be locked into a predefined curriculum.” He says having the autonomy to select his courses enabled him to put together a better thesis and move into exciting research areas that “I didn’t even know were good complements to my subject until I explored them.” The program can be completed part time, which allowed Daniel to continue running his businesses—Praitie Studios and Jobs Logger—as he pursued the degree.
Daniel says PAS is a controversial, frequently misunderstood topic whose time has come. He argues that with the country’s aging population, the state of the healthcare system, and the prohibitive cost of high-quality end-of-life care, the time is right to expand PAS nationally. (PAS originated in Oregon over two decades ago but is still only legal in 10 states.) “People are dying with indignity; the terminally ill deserve greater autonomy over when, where, and how they choose to die,” he says.
Daniel says his experience in the MPhil program bolstered his work in three fundamental ways. Most important, he says, was his research writing course taught by Dr. Kristine Rabberman, which gave him the tools to structure an effective proposal and thesis. “The level of writing in a PhD program is so much more advanced and so much more creative than what most students are prepared to do,” Daniel notes. “Now I know that I can produce publication-ready work.”
Secondly, Daniel says his research benefited from the philosophical grounding that he gained in the program. “Most of the challenges we are facing in our current moment were already hashed out by the great thinkers, to some extent, thousands of years ago: life, death, God, religion, ethics, the soul.” In studying The Iliad and other classical texts, Daniel discovered resonances between the great philosophers’ ideas about suicide and the contemporary debate about PAS.
Lastly, Daniel says he benefited greatly from taking courses on public policy, which he recommends for anyone engaged in philosophical research. “We live in a society that is based on laws, so whatever you’re writing about, whatever ethical problem you’re trying to address, you need to look at the laws that set those problems in play,” he notes. This legal background was especially important for Daniel since his capstone thesis project advocates for amendments to current legislation in the states that offer PAS. His paper, “Physician-Assisted Suicide as an End-of-Life Care Option for Terminally Ill Patients Nationally,” contains the level of evidentiary support that would be needed to effect legislative change.
The next phase of Daniel’s work is ambitious: advocating for a national PAS program as exists now in the Netherlands. This will require many years of research on an international scale, but Daniel is ready. He reflects, “The MPhil program gave me a solid foundation. So now, whatever obstacles I encounter, I know I will be able to overcome them. I can do my best work and really hit this out of the park.”