February 7, 2011: University of Minnesota Board of Regents Refuses to Investigate the Markingson Case

On February 7, 2011, Board of Regents Chair Clyde Allen, Jr. indicated that the Board would not investigate the Markingson case. The Board’s decision was informed by input from the University’s general counsel, Mark Rotenberg. Allen’s letter stated, “At this time, however, we do not believe further University resources should be expended re-reviewing a matter such as this, which has already received such exhaustive analysis by independent authoritative bodies.” The letter appeared to suggest that the University’s research protection program was adequately protecting research subjects. Allen continued, “More generally, we note that the University maintains a human subjects protection program that is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protections Programs (AAHRPP), the gold standard, to ensure the protection of subjects participating in University research.”

Allen’s letter was accompanied by a response from Mark Rotenberg, General Counsel for the University of Minnesota. Responding to concerns outlined in the letter to the Board of Regents, Rotenberg suggested that my colleagues and I were insufficiently informed of prior reviews of the Markingson case. He wrote, “It is not clear from your letter that you are completely familiar with the details of these previous reviews, conducted by a number of experts and governmental units independent of the University. None of these reviews were conducted by persons with any financial or professional relationships with the researchers involved in the CAFÉ study.” (The university’s next general counsel, William Donohue, would use nearly identical language in his November 12, 2013 response to a letter written by non-University of Minnesota researchers requesting an investigation of the Markingson case and the CAFÉ study.)

Clyde Allen, Jr., Chair, University of Minnesota Board of Regents, Letter to Carl Elliott, Dianne Bartels, Joan Liaschenko, Mary Faith Marshall, John Song, Leigh Turner, Susan Craddock, Joan Tronto, February 7, 2011.

Mark Rotenberg, General Counsel’s Letter to Carl Elliott, Dianne Bartels, Joan Liaschenko, Mary Faith Marshall, John Song, Leigh Turner, Susan Craddock, Joan Tronto, February 7, 2011. 

News Media Coverage of the Regents’ Refusal to Investigate

Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, “No Review Needed of 2004 Suicide,” Science Insider, February 8, 2011.

Kyle Potter, “U rejects profs’ call for trial review,” Minnesota Daily, February 8, 2011.

Susan Perry, “Bioethicists respond to U of M Regents’ refusal to appoint outside panel,” MinnPost, February 8, 2011.

Minnesota Daily Editorial Board, “Regents play innocent,” Minnesota Daily, February 10, 2011.

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