U’s reviews are not enough

Two reviews of University research cannot skirt around controversy.

After years of scrutiny, the University of Minnesota will undergo two external evaluations of its research practices. The separate upcoming reviews will be led by Minnesota legislative auditor Jim Nobles and the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, which the University hired following a Faculty Senate resolution calling for a review.

The catalyst for these investigations was the controversy surrounding the suicide of psychiatric clinical trial participant Dan Markingson in 2004. According to Leigh Turner, an associate bioethics professor at the University, Markingson was an acutely psychotic man who was recruited into a psychiatric clinical trial. Despite pleas from Markingson’s mother to release him from the study, he remained a participant until his suicide.

The Faculty Senate approved a measure last December called “Issues Arising from the CAFE Study and the Suicide of Dan Markingson.” The measure acknowledged that individuals inside and outside the University have raised questions about the study Markingson was involved with, his recruitment, his treatment and the circumstances of his suicide. The Minnesota Daily also published an editorial and letters from University faculty  calling for a review.

Nobles’ investigation will look at drug trials spanning back to 2004, before Markingson killed himself. The AAHRPP investigation will only examine trials dating back to 2011.

It’s not enough that the AAHRPP investigation only goes back three years. And considering Nobles told the Minnesota Daily that he isn’t sure whether his investigation will look in-depth at the Markingson case, both investigations may ignore the scandal.

The investigations initially started because of Markingson’s case. It’s not enough to simply have a review if the University wants to move past this controversy. University officials have touted numerous reviews clearing the institution of any wrongdoing in Markingson’s case, but the controversy lingers.

If the University is to continue as a leading research institution, its leaders must honor their responsibility to transparency and ethics with an effective review.