Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kaler gets a pay raise while U students accumulate record amounts of debt

"On July 9th, 2014, the Minnesota Board of Regents approved a pay raise and contract extension for UMN President Eric Kaler, bringing his base pay up to $625,250 per year with built-in reviews for additional annual raises and a total compensation package peaking at nearly a million dollars per year by the time his contract expires in 2020.  SDS opposes this decision and sees it as a direct affront to our demands for economic justice and education rights at UMN."

Read the rest of SDS condemnation here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

U bioethics professor Leigh Turner bashes the U's pretend review of psychiatric research

Read about it in City Pages.

If you've read Leigh's blog post and letter, you'll know the substance of his argument.  The City Pages reporter, Robbie Feinberg, asked both the U and AAHRPP for responses, and what he got is so mealy-mouthed and insubstantial that both responses are worth reproducing here.

From a "U of M spokesperson":

"From the start, our goal has been to ensure a vigorous process that fulfills the Faculty Senate's resolution to conduct a thorough, professional, independent and transparent review of our human subjects research practices. AAHRPP submitted the strongest proposal to administratively manage this process; it is not conducting any portion of the review. The review will be undertaken by a group of independent, internationally-recognized experts in the field of human subjects research protection. As part of this process, potential conflicts of interest will be managed appropriately."

From Elyse Summers, the President and CEO of AAHRPP:

"AAHRPP is proud to be a leader within the human research protections community. Consistent with that role, AAHRPP is well-positioned to have identified and assembled an independent panel of world renowned experts in the fields of bioethics, medicine, psychiatry, law and human research regulations, who, individually and collectively, have the experience, intellect, and integrity to conduct the evaluation requested by the University of Minnesota. AAHRPP will logistically manage the work but will play no role in the substantive analysis, decision-making, conclusions or recommendations of the expert team. As an organization committed to identifying and promoting the highest level of human research protections, we at AAHRPP are as eager as anyone to learn from the findings of the independent expert panel."

"World-renowned experts"?  Seriously?

A "thorough" and "transparent" review?  That is limited to three years, will cover no cases of research misconduct, and will not investigate Dan Markingson's suicide?

Come on.  Does anyone, anywhere, actually think that this review is legitimate?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How many subjects have died in psychiatric studies at the U? The U replies (sort of)

During the four years since I published "Making a Killing" in Mother Jones magazine, I have been contacted confidentially by a number of people who say that they or their family members have undergone harrowing experiences similar to that of Dan Markingson in the CAFE study. For that reason, I have filed numerous open records requests over the past year, trying to find out whether other psychiatric research subjects have died or been seriously injured at the U.  I started with studies by four U psychiatrists: Stephen Olson, Charles Schulz, John Jensen, and David Adson.

Last week, nine months after I filed my open records request, the General Counsel's office provided me with a spreadsheet of studies conducted by these four psychiatrists. Included on this spreadsheet are the numbers of subjects who have experienced Serious Adverse Events (death or serious injuries) at the University of Minnesota for each study.

According to the records listed on this spreadsheet, the only person to die in psychiatric studies conducted by these four psychiatrists was Dan Markingson.  There are no other deaths listed.  (The spreadsheet does indicate that the records for some studies have been destroyed, and the U is not saying whether deaths occurred in those studies.)

Is this spreadsheet a truthful, accurate representation of what happened in those studies?  Certainly it does not match up with what I have been told by families. And in the case reported by Jeff Baillon of KMSP News on May 19, the study records provided by the IRB did not match up with the experience of the subject himself.  Without access to more information, however, it is impossible for me to make an informed judgement.

In any case, this spreadsheet does provide some sense of what University of Minnesota officials plan to tell the Legislative Auditor as his office investigates the U.  And if this information goes unchallenged by those with more direct experience of psychiatric research, the Legislative Auditor will have no reason to doubt it. This is why it is crucial that subjects of psychiatric research at the U or their family members contact the Legislative Auditor directly.

Friday, July 18, 2014

AAHRPP is squandering its reputation for a $141,000 paycheck

AAHRPP is a professional organization that "accredits" IRBs in exchange for a fee.  It has accredited the University of Minnesota IRB several times in the past, including the periods in which alleged psychiatric research misconduct has occurred. Why, then, would anyone think that AAHRPP is an appropriate body to conduct another review?

That's one question that Leigh Turner raises in this letter to AAHRPP. He also points out a number of alarming, undisclosed conflicts of interest.  If AAHRPP applied to itself the conflict of interest standards it applies to researchers, it would not be conducting this review.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sued for negligence as an IRB chair, now an "expert" research reviewer for the U

If you had any slim, lingering suspicion that the U might be conducting a legitimate investigation into its psychiatric research, this blog post by Leigh Turner will put it to rest. The post is worth reading in its entirety, but here is an important passage:

"At the time AAHRPP appointed Dr. Frumin as a reviewer of the University of Minnesota’s research protections programs she was being sued for negligence along with other IRB members. Dr. Frumin and the other IRB members have since been dismissed from the suit because the judge assigned to the case concluded IRB members do not have legal duties to research subjects."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Prison guards beat suicidal inmates

"What emerges is a damning portrait of guards on Rikers Island, who are poorly equipped to deal with mental illness and instead repeatedly respond with overwhelming force to even minor provocations."

"The report notes that health department staff members interviewed 80 of the 129 inmates after their altercations with correction officers. In 80 percent of the cases, inmates reported being beaten after they were handcuffed."

"The study also contained hints of efforts to cover up the assaults. More than half of the inmates reported facing 'interference or intimidation' from correction officers while seeking treatment after an altercation."

"In five of the 129 cases, the beatings followed suicide attempts."

The New York Times reports on the brutal abuse of mentally ill inmates.

"Do we imagine that complete control over our biological fates will necessarily make us happier?"

"Do we imagine that complete control over our biological fates will necessarily make us happier? Perhaps it will. But one can as easily imagine that there might be little room for uninhibited joy or exuberance in such a world. More likely it will be a tightly wound world, saturated with bitterness and anxiety and mutual suspicion, in which life and health will be guarded with all the ferocity of Ebenezer Scrooge guarding his money. Growing mastery means growing responsibility, and the need to assign blame, since nothing happens by chance. Some of the blame will be directed at the parents, politicians, doctors, and celebrities who make plausible villains, or conspiracy theories that explain why someone else is always at fault. But much of the blame will devolve upon ourselves, since in being set free to choose so much about our lives, we will have no one else to blame when we make a complete mess of things."

Wilfred McClay, "Against Mastery," in The Hedgehog Review