Link to video on KMSP-TV

KMSP has recently called attention to the scandal and tragedy of the Markingson case in which a young man committed suicide while enrolled in a clinical trial at the University of Minnesota. The position of the university is that nothing wrong has been done by the U, the matter has been thoroughly investigated, nothing to see here. Move along.

If you have some time and have not already seen it, I'd urge readers to click the link above and have a look at the KMSP video.

Of course the university immediately tried to brush the matter off. As a recent post in MinnPost put it:

In a letter sent Tuesday to the U of M's medical community, Dr. Aaron Friedman, the dean of the university's medical school, said Baillon's report was "full of inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims," although he did not detail them.

This is of course standard operating procedure by now at the U. What exactly were the inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims? These blanket denials are insufficient given the evidence in the record.

One of the claims that the U has used many times is that sufficient investigation has already done that has exonerated the U of M.  This claim has been demolished by Professor Trudo Lemmens, a faculty member in the law school at the University of Toronto. In an excellent summary Professor Lemmens has taken each of the proceedings the U claims has exonerated them and illustrates why this is not the case.  I strongly recommend that anyone with an interest have a look at this summary on ScribD. (Unfortunately because of the way it is formatted and the length, it would be difficult to summarize here.)

I've posted before on the Markingson case at the University of Minnesota. See for example:

May 20, 2013: The Markingson Case: A Tragedy But Not A Scandal?

"It is critical for the University of Minnesota to regain its good name and to take steps to see that something like this never happens again.

To defend the behavior of the University in the Markingson case is a fool's errand."

June 5, 2013: Response to University of Minnesota President's Letter 

I am perplexed as to how the president could make the claim that the actions of the University did not "in any way" contribute to the death of Mr. Markingson.

Even a small sampling of the events that occurred makes this claim very difficult to back up.  The fact that the General Counsel at the University of Minnesota did an investigation means exactly nothing. He is the University's mouthpiece and the results of his supposed investigation were never made public.

So why is the University of Minnesota so afraid of an unbiased, outside, investigation?  If it is true that the U has done nothing wrong, why not do it?  The fact that a large number of people both inside and outside the University have asked that this be done is of no consequence?  Many of these people are alums, faculty, and citizens of the state of Minnesota.

Send in the wackos...

From KMSP news:

In March, a writer from "Scientific American" contacted the school for a piece she was doing about the Markingson case

"I became more and more appalled at errors and breaches in normal research conduct," writer Dr. Judy Stone, MD, said.

The university's senior director of communications sent out an internal message that read in part, "I looked her up and can't tell if she's a wacko or not…. I get nervous about anyone who would pay any attention to Carl."

"I was shocked that the university response to my inquiry was that I'm a wacko," Stone said.

Stone spent 24 years conducting clinical trials and even wrote a book about it. She said she started her reporting on Markingson with no interest on one side or the other, and she has never met Elliott.

"They won't talk to me and have told other faculty also not to talk to me," she said.

And for a supposed senior director of communications at the U to make the statement: 

"I looked her up and can't tell if she's a wacko or not..." 

is both outrageous and incompetent. It takes a simple Google search to discover that not only does Dr. Stone have experience in clinical trials, she has also written a highly regarded book on that topic that is rated at 4.8/5 stars on Amazon. I will not further embarrass the director of communications by quoting from the many laudatory reviews of this well regarded book on clinical trials. 

So the other pernicious and disturbing aspect of this case is the implication that anyone who would pay attention to Carl Elliot is a wacko. This is outrageous.

So 3,413 people who signed a petition for an independent investigation of the matter are wackos? Including practicing psychiatrists, medical ethicists, medical journal editors, U of M alumni, and citizens of the state?

170 scholars recently requested, in a letter to the U of M faculty senate, that they call for an independent investigation of the matter.  These people are all wackos?

A link to the institutional affiliations of the 170 scholars may be found here.  The qualifications of some of the petitioners may be found here. To dismiss the opinion of these people because they "pay attention to Carl" beggars belief. 

As the highly regarded psychiatrist and psychoanalyst  Dr. Mickey Nardo put it:

...the care [Markingson] got didn’t approximate his best shot – not even a good shot. He spent 6 months languishing in a halfway house on a weak-sister medication that was having, at best, a sub-optimal effect. And he succumbed to a violent psychotic suicide in plain view, a testimony to the inadequacy of the treatment. Such things can happen in the best of circumstances, but this was the nowhere close to the best of circumstances – a patient under care who was neglected.

...neither burnout or understaffing appear to be the case here. This is something else that shouldn’t ever be in the mix – corporate greed. And in this case, it filtered down to the people doing the clinical trial itself and resulted in negligence in medical care, failing to engage the case at hand. It is a scandal that deserves full investigation and exposure, at a minimum – and maybe its days in court. 

What EXACTLY is it going to take for my university to step forward, take responsibility, and see that things like this don't happen again?

I am not #umnproud. I am #umn ashamed, sorry to say.

William B. Gleason
University of Minnesota faculty and alum

[It isn't the wackos that are the problem here, it's the clowns.]


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Response to University of Minnesota President's Letter

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A Cover-up Culture at the U of M? Denial as Administrative Policy?