Sunday, November 24, 2013

Yet More on the Markingson Case at U-Minn

It has been a while since I commented on the tragic Dan Markingson case at University of Minnesota, for example:

For some time, my colleague in bioethics, Dr. Carl Elliott, at U-Minn, was alone in pressing for a full investigation of this case that led to a young man committing suicide while enrolled in a university-conducted, industry-sponsored clinical trial of psychiatric drugs, when his mental state would have appeared to preclude the possibility of his giving proper informed consent to participate in the trial. More recently, however, as a recent piece in Minnpost summarizes:
--Dr. Elliott has been joined by his U-Minn colleague in bioethics, Dr. Leigh Turner, and also by Dr. Trudo Lemmons at the University of Toronto, in approaching the University administration and demanding a thorough investigation and accounting. (Full disclosure: I am a signatory to the petition that Dr. Lemmons circulated.)

You might wonder why I continue to call attention to this case, which the University insists is old news, was previously investigated and they were found blameless, and these are just malcontents trying to stir up trouble. Besides all the important ethical issues about the ethical conduct of research and informed consent and protection for psychiatric patients, there is what happens when a University decides to get into bed with Pharma and accept big research grants--and then to decide that the faculty who attract those grants, by doing Pharma's bidding, are their best faculty and should be properly rewarded for the largesse they are bringing in. There is further the question of what happens when something ethically questionable is alleged in one of these studies; and whether the University will then remember that it is supposed to be about good science and about the public interest, or whether the instinct of self-preservation takes over and the response is stonewalling and obfuscation.

Dr. Turner in the Minnpost interview is commendably noncommittal over whether any actual wrongdoing occurred, and in calling solely for more information to be disclosed. I would say that enough is known so far to show that Drs. Elliott, Turner, and Lemmons are fully justified in demanding more answers and in saying that the so-called investigations that have taken place so far are woefully inadequate. People who really care about the reputation of the University of Minnesota would be listening to them rather than continuing to attack them.

1 comment:

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