Here are the comments that Leigh Turner delivered to the Board of Regents in the public session yesterday. (Like me, Leigh is a professor in the Center for Bioethics at the U.) The final section of Leigh's speech was difficult to hear, because he was being shouted down by the board Chairman, Richard Beeson.
I wish to address a subject
that has great significance for next year’s budget, the University of
Minnesota’s reputation, and, most importantly, the health and safety of
the citizens our university was established to serve.
was the tenth anniversary of Dan Markingson’s death. Dan committed
suicide while he was a research subject in a psychiatric clinical study
conducted at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. Today, a vigil
was held to commemorate Dan’s death.
pleas, university officials have never investigated whether Dan was a
victim of research misconduct. President Kaler recently ordered a review
of current research practices and policies. This review will not
address whether the care Dan received met ethical, legal, and clinical
It appears that senior administrators have no
intention of ever investigating Dan’s death. Are you prepared for the
possibility that if a legitimate independent investigation occurs the
University of Minnesota could be exposed as an institution where
research misconduct occurred and you dismissed all requests to
investigate possible wrongdoing?
Before Dan entered the CAFÉ
trial he was repeatedly deemed psychotic and incapable of making
health-related decisions. The study coordinator who evaluated Dan’s
ability to provide consent and enrolled him in the trial not only had a
financial conflict of interest as a member of the AstraZeneca-funded
research team but also was not qualified to assess Dan’s decision-making
capacity. Why has no one investigated whether Dan was capable of
providing informed consent?
When Dan entered the study he
was under a court-ordered stay of commitment. He had to follow his
doctor’s treatment plan. Why have you not investigated whether the
threat of involuntary commitment was used to coerce Dan into the CAFÉ
As Dan’s health deteriorated, his mother, Mary Weiss,
pleaded with his psychiatrists to remove Dan from the trial. She
frantically warned them that Dan was at risk of killing himself or
someone else. Shortly after, Dan cut his throat with a box cutter,
plunged the knife and his fist into his abdomen, and bled to death in
the bathtub of a halfway house. Had Dan been removed from the CAFÉ study
and provided more personalized care after his mother’s warnings perhaps
he would be alive today.
There are many indications that
other research subjects have been harmed. Three individuals contacted me
and pointed to the Markingson case as indicative of what their loved
ones endured. Additional individuals reporting research abuse contacted
Professor Carl Elliott. There are other signs of research misconduct but
you have ignored all of them.
As you review next year’s budget I
urge you to consider the possibility that the University of Minnesota
is one investigation away from being exposed as the site of a major
Are you prepared for what a thorough investigation of
psychiatric trials here might find? Do you know how many psychiatric
research subjects have died or been seriously injured here? Why are open
records requests to obtain such data routinely stonewalled? Are you
aware of the loss of federal funding, mass faculty departures, and
public outrage that occurs when research scandals are exposed? Are you
ready for the possibility of multiple lawsuits brought by victims of
psychiatric research misconduct? Will you remove President Kaler and
other university officials from their positions if it emerges that
research misconduct occurred and yet they resisted repeated calls for an
investigation? Have you considered the economic and reputational harm
this university will suffer if it emerges that faculty members
mistreated vulnerable patients and no one in a position of authority
acted to stop the abuse or investigate reports of wrongdoing?
have a responsibility to put the safety and health of this state’s most
vulnerable citizens above all other considerations. Has this
institution budgeted for the consequences of failing to fulfill this