Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dan Markingson, the 2009 Frank Premack Award, and the "financial incentives that can compromise a doctor’s decision-making"

Readers of the Star Tribune could be forgiven for thinking that there is only one person at the University of Minnesota who is worried about the current state of human subject protection.  In a recent editorial, Aaron Friedman, the Dean of Medicine, ignores the 2500 people who have called for an investigation of the suicide of Dan Markingson and portrays the call as my own personal vanity project.

Friedman has also apparently forgotten that the Minnesota Journalism Center, which is part of the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communications, awarded its 2009 Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Award for excellence in investigative or analytical reporting to Paul Tosto and Jeremy Olson for their Pioneer Press series on Markingson's death. The judges wrote:

In this piece, Olson and Tosto reported for the first time on schizophrenia patient Dan Markingson’s death and the resulting lawsuit and probes. In the process, they pulled back the curtain on the rarely viewed world of industry-funded clinical research and the financial incentives that can compromise a doctor’s decision-making.

Premack judges in this category said: “Through the eyes of one patient, this story shed considerable light on the complicated and competing interests between the development and path to market of new drugs, funding needs of the University and the integrity of medical research. The judges are hopeful that the new ethics task force implemented at the U of M is resulting in changes in conflict of interest policies.”

Unsurprisingly, the public relations staff at the Academic Health Center did not publicize the Frank Premack Award. Nothing has changed since 2009, and the rules permitting the "financial incentives that can compromise a doctor's decisionmaking" are still in place.

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