Thursday, January 2, 2014

For the Record: Leigh Turner letter to Governor Dayton #markingson

December 20, 2013

Governor Mark Dayton
Office of the Governor
130 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155

Re: An Open Letter Concerning Mary Weiss and Mike Howard’s Petition Requesting an Independent Investigation of Possible Psychiatric Research Misconduct at the University of Minnesota 

Dear Governor Dayton:

On December 5, you were presented with a petition asking you to initiate an investigation of the death of Dan Markingson and additional reports of possible psychiatric research misconduct at the University of Minnesota. Dan Markingson’s mother, Mary Weiss, and Mike Howard launched the petition earlier this year. I am an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics and School of Public Health. I am one of the 3495 individuals that signed the petition. With the other signatories, I hope that you will play a leadership role in ordering an independent, external investigation of allegations of psychiatric research misconduct at the University.

 Repeated efforts to persuade senior university administrators of the urgent need for an independent investigation of possible psychiatric research misconduct have all failed. While the University of Minnesota’s Faculty Senate recently passed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the Markingson case, President Kaler has already indicated that whatever panel is established will not investigate Dan Markingson’s death. Furthermore, it appears that President Kaler envisions himself playing an active role in selecting panel members. Individuals appointed to an independent, external inquiry must not be chosen by individuals whose conduct will have to be examined by the investigation.

As Governor, you have the authority to establish an independent investigation. Unlike President Kaler, you have no conflicts-of-interest that might prompt questions about the independence and integrity of such an investigative panel. Should you establish a body responsible for investigating reports of psychiatric research misconduct at the University, I urge you to mandate that this panel address Dan Markingson’s death and additional reports of alleged research misconduct.

Last May, I wrote to President Kaler and urged him to support Mary Weiss and Mike Howard’s petition. He refused. I was subsequently contacted by several individuals who reported that their loved ones suffered serious harm while enrolled in psychiatric clinical trials conducted by faculty members in the University’s Department of Psychiatry. They indicated that what happened to Dan Markingson was very similar to what their relatives endured. Professor Carl Elliott, a colleague of mine at the Center for Bioethics, has been contacted by an even larger number of individuals describing incidents that raise serious questions about the adequacy of protections for psychiatric research subjects at the University. These citizens need to be given an opportunity to bring their reports of mistreatment and abuse to an independent body authorized and empowered to investigate their claims.

Given university administrators’ repeated refusals to investigate reports of psychiatric research misconduct, the conduct of senior university officials must be scrutinized as part of any legitimate inquiry. President Kaler, Vice President and Dean Aaron Friedman, General Counsel William Donohue, former General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, other senior administrators at the University of Minnesota, and Regents have repeatedly failed to make reasonable inquiries in response to reports of possible violations of rights of research subjects.

As both a faculty member at the University and a resident of the state of Minnesota, in the strongest possible terms I urge you to initiate a thorough, independent, external investigation into reports that psychiatric research misconduct has occurred at the University of Minnesota. I have no confidence that senior officials at the University of Minnesota are fulfilling their moral and legal duties and addressing these reports with the urgency and attentiveness that they require.
Yours sincerely,
 Leigh Turner, PhD 
Associate Professor 
University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics 
N520 Boynton, 410 Church Street SE 
Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55455 

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