Online Petition Seeks Justice on Behalf of Dan Markingson

Posted by Emily Smith Beitiks March 25, 2013
Biopolitical Times
Dan and his mom, Mary Weiss
As Biopolitical Times readers know all too well, profits can often come before the health and safety of patients in clinical drug trials. A troubling case at the University of Minnesota (my alma mater, though I am no longer proud to say so) provides a powerful illustration.

Despite his inability to give informed consent, 26-year-old Dan Markingson was enrolled  by his doctor in the U of M CAFÉ study (an acronym for Comparison of Atypicals in First-Episode Schizophrenia), sponsored by pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca. His mother, Mary Weiss, came to believe that the trial was in fact harming him, and that he was not receiving the proper help and treatment he sorely needed. She desperately fought to get her son out of the trial, but to no avail. On May 7, 2004, her worst fears were confirmed, and Markingson committed suicide in a most brutal manner.

After several lawsuits and investigations, justice still has not come for Mary Weiss. And she has been subjected to numerous personal attacks along the way. You can read the full and complex story here, here, and here. After minimal gains combined with recently discovered evidence that suggests the University’s investigation is incomplete, Weiss and Markingon’s close friend Mike Howard initiated an online petition, asking Minnesota governor Mark Dayton to investigate. Howard explains his motivation for the petition:
I cannot tell anyone else what way of speaking out is most aligned with his or her own personal principles. However, I believe those of us who are personally affected by these issues must break the silence about the human rights violations inherent in coerced participation in psychiatric research. While University of Minnesota researchers used many unethical methods to force Dan to participate in this research study, the most egregious of them was fear. Dan was afraid that there was no alternative to taking part in the study, and that he would face a complete loss of liberty if he did not participate.
The Change.org petition already has over 1,000 signatures, including former editors-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine Jerome Kassirer and Marcia Angell and many other noted bioethicists.  University of Minnesota professor and bioethicist Carl Elliott has been particularly instrumental over the past three years in bringing this case into the public eye, expressing shame at his home university. Elliott writes:
Of course, I am not asking anyone to sign the petition without looking at the evidence. What I am saying is that if you look at the evidence, you will conclude that an injustice was inflicted on a vulnerable family at the worst possible moment. This is not a hard case. It is an easy case where ordinary people have looked the other way for too long. We can never make things right for Mary Weiss, but by signing this petition, at least we can try to ensure that what happened to Dan does not happen to anyone else.

View the petition here.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: