In a letter released Monday, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents dismissed a request from eight bioethicists for an independent investigation of the case of Dan Markingson, who committed suicide after being enrolled in a University psychiatric research study.
One of the leaders of that study, Stephen Olson, was Markingson’s doctor, but he also received consulting fees from the study’s sponsor, AstraZeneca. His obligation to the study and its corporate sponsor could have caused him to overlook his patient’s safety. The University made $327,000 from the study, $15,000 of which came from recruiting and retaining Markingson as a subject in the study, despite repeated requests by his mother for him to be released.
Of course, the University has maintained neither it nor anyone involved in the case did anything wrong, an odd claim to make after the Minnesota Legislature unanimously passed a law that prohibits exactly what happened and named the law after Markingson.
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.