Thursday, April 28, 2011

Brian Leiter Calls Out University of Minnesota Administration

"a quite brazen attack on the core of academic freedom" 

The University of Minnesota "Clinical Trials" Fiasco--and the Apparent Attempt to Silence Faculty Critics

This is a somewhat complicated story, but here's the condensed version:  a clinical trial of an antipsychotic medication at the University of Minnesota in 2003 resulted in the death of a patient; bioethicist Carl Elliott at Minnesota investigated, concluding that the patient should not have been enrolled, and that the clinical trial itself was run by doctors with financial ties to the drug manufacturer sponsoring the clinical trial, and that many such trials are really aimed at marketing the drug, not testing its safety:  you can read Professor Elliott's detailed analysis of what happened.  Professor Elliott and others appealed to the University's Board of Trustees to investigate.   Now the University's General Counsel is trying to stop faculty from pursuing this matter!   This latest development--a quite brazen attack on the core of academic freedom (Professor Elliott is both eminently qualified [he is both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in philosophy and a well-known bioethicist] to investigate this matter and it falls squarely within his core research interests)--is discussed here.  (There are also stories in CHE and in IHE.)  This blog also offers a useful timeline of the recent events :

November 23, 2010.  Eight professors and bioethicists submit a letter to the Regents requesting an independent investigation into the death of Dan Markingson while he was participating in a clinical trial at the University.  See Faculty Letter at
December 10, 2010.  General Counsel Mark Rotenberg meets with the Regents regarding the request.  See U of M Attorney at
February 7, 2011.  Regents deny request for independent investigation.  See Regents Play Innocent at
February 24, 2011.  General Counsel Rotenberg submits to the FCC [the faculty council] the following question:  What is the faculty's collective role in addressing factually incorrect attacks on particular U faculty research activities?  FCC refers the question to the AF & T Committee.  See the February 24 report of the FCC at
This is a case where the University President needs to exercise some real leadership, including, at a minimum, instructing the General Counsel to back off.  This whole episode is also indicative of how important tenure is to protect faculty whose research adversely affects corporate interests.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's absolutely amazing to me the attorney rhetoric and innuendo's that are commonly used by the legal counsel at the University of Minnesota. It's pretty simple folks; the Minnesota legislators got it right. It's called Dan's Law. Contrary to what the legal counsel tries to defend or cover-up, this law passed unanimously and it was aimed at correcting the behavior of "researchers," predominately at the University of Minnesota's Psychiatry Department that thought their ties to pharma superseded their obligations to their patients. All professor Elliott has done is exposed this travesty for what it was/is. Legal prostitution condoned by the University.