Wednesday, March 25, 2015

U officials pledge "transparency" and "decisive action" while keeping investigation of second case of research abuse secret

If you have been following events here at the U for the past five years, you probably find to hard to imagine why anyone would believe the public statements about psychiatric research issued by university leadership.  And nothing has changed, even after the Legislative Auditor called out university leaders for their lies and stonewalling.  The talking points issued by the university communications office emphasize "transparency" and "accountability" and "decisive action" to improve research protection.  Yet the university continues to hide a secret investigation of possible research abuse six months after the investigation was completed.

Hold University of Minnesota officials accountable in enrollee’s suicide.

From today's Star Tribune:

For almost 11 years we have been attempting to blow the whistle on psychiatric drug research at the University of Minnesota. As a friend of Mary Weiss, the mother of Dan Markingson, who committed suicide while enrolled in a drug study at the university, we have sought to gain access to truthful information as to how it happened. We were rebuffed, lied to and stonewalled.

Now the legislative auditor’s report finally verifies that the Board of Regents and university officials repeatedly misled the media, the public and the Legislature and that they provided cover to those who were engaged in blatant conflicts of interest and coercive behavior that has caused irreparable harm to study enrollees and the reputation of the university itself.

To date there has not been a single effort to hold these offenders accountable. Instead, they have been put in charge of reforming the corrupt processes they themselves instituted. Once again, it appears the only solution the university ever considers is putting the foxes in charge of chicken coops.

Mike Howard, Cottage Grove

Monday, March 23, 2015

"I apologize for being so blunt, but apparently someone has to be."

Submitted by Chuck Turchick to the Minnesota Daily:
When someone dies as a result of alleged misconduct or alleged inadequate protections, it may be an exaggeration to say the cover-up was greater than the offense, but in the Markingson case there was clearly a cover-up by more than one University administration.
And now there is even a cover-up of the cover-up. President Kaler, in a March 18, 2015, letter responding to the Legislative Auditor's report, wrote: "If these external reviews were flawed, we were not aware of those shortcomings."
I have not been following this controversy all that closely over the years. But even my limited reading on the matter has made me aware that professors in the University's Center for Bioethics -- Professor Carl Elliott and more recently Professor Leigh Turner -- for years have been pointing out the flaws in those external reviews, many of which flaws Legislative Auditor Nobles repeated in his report.
For President Kaler to claim he was not aware of those shortcomings, he has either been intentionally hiding his head in the sand or he is lying. I apologize for being so blunt, but apparently someone has to be.
In that same letter and in his oral testimony before the Minnesota Senate committee that received the report, President Kaler apologized to the family of Dan Markingson. However, missing from that apology was any reference to the University not acting more forthrightly with respect to questions raised over the past 11 years.

Now various committees are going to implement the recommendations of the more general external review of the U's Human Subjects Protection Program that was completed last month and address the failings cited in the Legislative Auditor's report. Some of those committees will be comprised of people external to the University. But no mention has been made of the expertise right here on campus in the form of medical ethicists in the Center for Bioethics, the people who have been asking the questions.
The administration ought to include on those committees those people who for years have raised the very questions specified in these two recent reports. Regrettably, however, the administration is not even willing to talk to those whistleblowers.
With this record and with this ongoing shunning of those who should be praised for raising the necessary questions, the words above Northrop Auditorium -- "dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth" -- ring hollow.
Chuck Turchick
Alumnus and Continuing Education student

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why the Legislative Auditor's report on the Markingson case is not enough

"The Markingson case will be in books and textbooks where it belongs long after most of us are no longer around to read them."

Dr. Mickey Nardo, who has written many times about the problems with the CAFE study and the way Dan was treated, has posted a round-up of this week's events that is well worth reading in its entirety.  But let me just highlight one sentence:

"I wonder about a place where it takes eleven years, a group of dedicated campaigners, a faculty Senate revolt, an ex-Governor’s intervention, and international outrage to finally get the ball rolling. So some are already calling for a change of administration and I would anticipate that cry will become louder."


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Legislative Auditor blasts U for failures in Markingson case

“We are especially troubled by the response of University leaders … they have made misleading statements about previous reviews and been consistently unwilling to discuss or even acknowledge that serious ethical issues and conflicts are involved.”

"University officials’ unwillingness to acknowledge and address this wider range of ethical problems is troubling. Rather than acknowledge the concerns, University officials have dismissed them and essentially said there is nothing to talk about."

"This kind of insularity is particularly troubling because it comes from University officials with an obligation to foster open discussion and debate about complex issues and societal concerns. It leaves us wondering why the University of Minnesota has a Center for Bioethics when University officials will not meet with the center’s faculty to discuss the very real and important bioethical questions the Markingson case raised." 

The Legislative Auditor's report is here.

See also coverage by MinnPost, MPR, the Associated Press, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Fox 9 News and KSTP News.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Announcement from Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor




The Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor will release the following “special review” to the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Thursday, March 19, 2015, at 2:00 p.m., in Room 107 of the Capitol. 


This review examines a case involving a young man who committed suicide while participating in a University of Minnesota Department of Psychiatry drug study in 2004.


Thursday, March 19, 2015, at 1:00 p.m., at the Office of the Legislative Auditor, 140 Centennial Building, or on our website at:


James Nobles, Legislative Auditor, 651-296-4708

Elizabeth Stawicki, Legal Research Director, Office of the Legislative Auditor,

Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor
140 Centennial Building
658 Cedar Street
St. Paul, Minnesota  55155