Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When Professor von Dassow Speaks,

Hopefully Somebody Will Listen...

Academics Want University To Probe 
A Suicide In Seroquel Trial

What contributed to the 2004 death of Dan Markinson? This nagging question has been asked ever since the troubled 26-year old committed suicide while participating in a clinical trial that was run by University of Minnesota researchers. The ensuing years have produced a lawsuit by his mother and probes that went nowhere amid charges of conflicts of interest and mismanagement at the school.

Now, a group of 171 academics have sent a letter asking the Faculty Senate, which is the governing body, to run a public investigation. Their hope is to pressure on the university - which has repeatedly dodged blame despite hounding from some of its faculty – while also shedding light on clinical trial enrollment practices and improving the integrity of medical research at medical schools.

“We felt that we had to do something,” says Trudo Lemmens, an associate professor and Scholl chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Toronto. “Our hope is that this will show this is joint concern shared by many people in the academic community who specialize in these issues and that it’s noted outside of the school. We hope we’ve sent a message that this is very serious and deserves attention.”

The letter was signed by dozens of academics who specialize in bioethics, law, health sciences, public policy and medicine at universities in several countries, including the US, the UK and Canada. Among them are former editors of the British Medical Journal, The New England Journal of Medicine and PLoS Medicine, as well as a co-founder of The Hasting Centers, a prominent bioethics think tank (here is the letter and the list of signatories).

We asked the university president Eric Kaler, who also chairs the Faculty Senate, for a response, but did not receive a reply. However, Eva von Dassow, an associate professor of classical Near Eastern Studies, who is also vice chair, sent us this note:
“I cannot speak for the university, nor can I even speak for the faculty prior to having an opportunity to put this issue on the table for discussion in faculty governance. What I can tell you now is that I shall request that it be brought before the Faculty Consultative Committee, of which I am a member.  I shall also seek to put the case to President Kaler, urging that the university respond positively to the letter.”
Those of us at the University of Minnesota who know Professor von Dassow have enormous respect for her.  Here is why:

This video has been watched by 24,877 people as of today. 

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