March 15

InfoMail for March 15, 2002



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News Stories on Human ResearchProtection and
Commentary by Vera Hassner Sharav

March 15, 2002 

Seattle Times Reports 6 More FamiliesSue Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center


The Seattle Times reports that 6 additional families havefiled lawsuits against The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, alleging"failures in the areas of patient consent, product liability, consumerprotection and battery." This brings the total of 11 families who havefiled suit since The Times published its prize winning, investigative series,UNINFORMED CONSENT (March 2001).The Times had reported that a leukemiaexperiment in the 1980s resulted in numerous deaths: "at least 80 of 82people who enrolled in the experiment have died. Some of them stood a goodchance of a full cure with the standard treatment."

The series has garnered the Seattle Times, and itsreporters, Duff Wilson and David Heath, multiple honors, accolades, and awardsfor excellence in investigative journalism. They include: Harvard University’sGoldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting; the Scripps Howard FoundationNational Journalism Awards for Public Service Reporting; the National HeadlinerAwards; the Associated Press Managing Editors Public Service Award, and theGeorge Polk Award for Medical Reporting.

The judges acknowledged that the series "wasdistinguished for us above all by its degree of difficulty. The authors faced arevered, secretive, self-protecting local institution that cloaked itself in anaura of infallibility and expertise."

The Seattle Times is the first three-time winner, andWilson is the first two-time winner, in the 10-year history of the GoldsmithPrize.

The Alliance for Human Research Protection applauds theSeattle Times and its reporters for their courage and exemplary investigativereporting. It may yet lead the federal oversight agency charged with protectinghuman subjects, to conduct a credible investigation. Friday, 

March 15, 2002

Six More Families Sue ‘Hutch’

By Duff Wilson Seattle Times staff reporter

Related stories

Uninformed Consent: the Seattle Times Investigation

Six more families have sued the Fred Hutchinson CancerResearch Center over deaths in a leukemia experiment in the 1980s.

The Hutchinson center already faces two lawsuits from sixother families, including one suit filed by relatives of five people who died inthe leukemia experiment and one suit filed by the widower of a woman who died ina breast-cancer experiment. The latter case is set for trial Sept. 16.

The initial suits were filed shortly after publicationlast March of a Seattle Times investigative series, "Uninformed Consent:What patients at ‘The Hutch’ weren’t told about the experiments in which theydied."

The latest suit was filed in King County Superior Court onFriday, shortly before the one-year anniversary of the newspaper articles. Anattorney for the plaintiffs, Tom Dreiling, said he wanted to avoid astatute-of-limitations claim that the families could not sue more than one yearafter they learned they might have grounds for legal action.

The suit alleges failures in the areas of patient consent,product liability, consumer protection and battery. The suit seeks unspecifieddamages.

Hutchinson-center spokeswoman Susan Edmonds said, "Weare confident that the evidence in this follow-on suit, as in the earlierlawsuit, will show that the center and its physicians acted in the best interestof their patients."

The center has not yet been served with the new lawsuit.The center has denied any misconduct and says it gives all patients adequateinformation on clinical trials to obtain their fully informed consent.

Dreiling and David Breskin of Short Cressman & Burgessin Seattle represent all of the plaintiffs in the three suits. The first casesoriginally were filed in Kitsap County Superior Court and were moved later tofederal court. The attorneys said the newly filed case also might be moved tofederal court at a later date.

The plaintiffs in that suit are:

• Marian Dagosto of Chicago, a researcher and teacher atthe Northwestern University School of Medicine, widow of Paul Mahler, a CityUniversity of New York anthropology chairman.

• Malathi Sarma of Sandy, Utah, widow of Mohan Sarma, alaboratory manager.

• Cathy Yingling of Butler, Pa., widow of insuranceagent David Yingling.

• Diane Fender of California, widow of George Fender.

• Paula Carrico of Loudon, Tenn., widow of dentistNorman Carrico.

• Robert and Carol Russell of California, parents ofLynne Russell, who was 15 when she died. The others were over 30.

The deaths occurred from 1983 to 1985. Yingling andRussell died after graft failure; the others died after their cancers returneddespite intense chemotherapy, radiation and bone-marrow transplants.

The leukemia experiment sought to prevent a secondarycondition called graft-vs.-host disease. It was abandoned after learning it hadled to high levels of graft failure and relapse.

At least 80 of 82 people who enrolled in the experimenthave died. Some of them stood a good chance of a full cure with the standardtreatment.

Named as plaintiffs were the Hutchinson center, its formerpresident, Dr. Robert Day, and researchers Dr. John Hansen, Dr. Paul Martin andDr. E. Donnall Thomas.

The suit says they "knew or should have known thatresults from prior human research … had shown no improvement insurvival."

The suit also says the Hutchinson center’s internal-reviewboard "was not fully informed of the risks, benefits, results, andfinancial conflicts of interest."

Copyright © 2002 The Seattle Times Company

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