As the whistle blows, Kaler covers his ears

Carl Elliott, Professor at the Center for Bioethics

The side-effects of Bifeprunox were so severe that Robert considered suicide. He went to the Fairview emergency room three times, yet Dr. Stephen Olson apparently dismissed his symptoms as “psychosomatic.” Robert says he was told that Bifeprunox was safe. But the FDA soon rejected the drug, asking the sponsor to look into the death of a research subject who had died of liver failure shortly after taking it. Several months later, the sponsor halted all Bifeprunox studies.

What is bafflingly familiar now is the point-blank refusal of University of Minnesota officials even to listen to these shocking revelations. Niki Gjere tried to bring her concerns to University President Eric Kaler. Kaler refused to meet her and sent her to another administrator, who did nothing.

Kaler has also refused my own requests for a private meeting.

Last year, after the Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly to endorse an investigation into psychiatric research misconduct at the University, Kaler said that he would permit the investigation but that investigation would not cover the time during which Dan Markingson committed suicide.

This response is astonishing. Like a child with his fingers in his ears, Kaler apparently believes that if he does not hear any credible reports of research abuse, they did not occur.

Gjere told KMSP-TV that a “culture of fear” prevents hospital employees from speaking out about the mistreatment of patients. Asked what her greatest concern was, Gjere said, “That it continues to happen. That patients are continuing to be harmed, that nothing’s been fixed.”

It is time for the state Legislature to step in and finally give these troubling issues a public hearing.

Legislators need to ask themselves a question.

Who should they believe: The nurse on the ward who is blowing the whistle or the man with his fingers in his ears?