Minnesota Regents refuse to review psych trial suicide: Twin Cities media react

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The Star Tribune reports:

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents has turned down a request by eight professors and ethicists to review events surrounding the suicide of a participant in a clinical psychiatric drug trial.

While noting the tragedy of the death, the letter stated, “we do not believe university resources should be expended re-reviewing a matter … which has already received such exhaustive analysis by independent authoritative bodies.”

The St. Paul Pioneer Press – which published the original news story about this case – reports:

The concerns about the research were first raised in a 2008 series of articles in the Pioneer Press and amplified by an article last year in Mother Jones magazine by Dr. Carl Elliott, a bioethicist at the U.

Elliott said Monday he was disappointed — but not surprised — by the university’s response. It’s unclear what the next steps might be. “There is nothing in the response that we did not already know,” he said. “The university is just repeating the same things it has said all along.”

The most complete reaction came on MinnPost.com:

“I wasn’t all that surprised either,” said Leigh Turner, another signator and an associate professor in the center for Bioethics, the School of Public Health and the College of Pharmacy, in a phone interview. “It seems to be in keeping with previous strategies to manage this case.”

Turner noted that the board solicited input only from U of M general counsel Mark Rotenberg. “You’re getting a very circumscribed take on the issue,” he said. “[General counsels] generally play a risk-management role. What you’ve got here is a letter that’s an exercise in risk management.”

“The general counsel keeps repeating that this matter has already been investigated and the university has been cleared, but it is precisely those investigations that have been called into question,” said Elliott. “This is exactly the reason why we have been calling for an independent investigation.”

The MinnPost.com story also reflected on the University of Minnesota’s conflict of interest policy. Read the whole post for more.

Addendum on Feb. 10: The Minnesota Daily today published an editorial that states:

“The University seems to think that because it was not held liable in court for Markingson’s death, it did nothing wrong. This is false; it is a cynical excuse to keep corporate drug money flowing into the University.

The regents’ decision fundamentally undermines our mission: Supposedly, the University is “dedicated to … the search for truth.” But the letter makes it clear that corporate research cash is more important to the University than patient safety and transparency.

Refusing to set up an independent investigation is a willfully ignorant attempt to sweep the Markingson case under the rug and damages the integrity of the entire University.”

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