Please ask donors to stop funding the University of Minnesota

First, thanks to all of you who have called Governor Dayton or the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents. We are very grateful for your help in demanding action to protect research subjects at the university. Today, we are rolling out the second phase of our campaign, and we need to ask for your help again.

If we are going to get action, we need to hit the university where it hurts: the wallet. Over the past week, some of us have begun writing to major donors. We are asking them to consider ending their donations to the university unless the administration takes action to protect psychiatric research subjects. We hope you will consider doing the same.

At this link, you will find a list of major donors, along with addresses, phone numbers, and in some cases, email addresses. We would like for you to write, call or email them. (Note: please take the Honeywell Foundation off the list.)  Of course, you are entirely free to compose your own letter or email. But if you need help, we have prepared a template for a letter or email that you can find at this link.

You might also want to send copies of articles about the Dan Markingson scandal and other issues. Among the articles you might consider are:

Making a Killing, Carl Elliott, Mother Jones

Patient’s suicide forces belated university investigation, David Cyranoski, Nature

The U of M should thoroughly investigate issues in the Markingson case, Leigh Turner, MinnPost

Pay no attention to the bloody corpse in the bathroom, Carl Elliott, Medium

A Clinical Trial and Suicide Leave Many Questions: Part 5: The Case of the Mysteriously Appearing Documents, Judy Stone, Scientific American

Will the U review or whitewash a research subject’s death?, Matt Lamkin et al, Minneapolis Star Tribune

For the sake of efficiency, we would like to keep track of which donors have been contacted. So when you call or write to a donor, please leave a comment on this post or send an email to me at my university email address.

Again, thank you very much. It has been a hard battle, and we could not have fought it for so long without your help.

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Please join our call-in campaign!

In early December, we delivered a petition signed by over 3,500 of you to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, calling for an investigation of the death of Dan Markingson in a University of Minnesota psychiatric research study. That same week, the Faculty Senate at the university also overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for an investigation.

Yet four months later, we still have seen no results. The president of the university, Eric Kaler, has indicated publicly that any review he commissions will not include any investigation of Dan Markingson’s death. Governor Dayton has not even acknowledged our petition.

In the meantime, evidence is accumulating that Dan Markingson was not the only patient who died or was seriously injured in psychiatric research studies at the university. Two investigative news reports have appeared with evidence of misconduct involving other patients. A confidential memo has emerged indicating that the Institutional Review Board was aware of ethical problems with psychiatric research at the University in 2009, and that it was concerned enough to request an external investigation. And for over six months, the university has stonewalled our open records requests for reports of deaths and serious injuries in psychiatric research studies.

So we need your help. We are organizing a series of actions beginning with a call-in campaign to Governor Mark Dayton and University of Minnesota Board of Regents Chairman Richard Beeson. We are asking you to call the offices of Dayton and Beeson and leave a message asking for action. Here are phone numbers (and if you need it, a suggested script for your call.)

Please make your voice heard. And let us know that you called by leaving a comment below.


Carl Elliott


Richard Beeson
Office of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents
Phone: 612-625-6300612-625-6300

Suggested script:

My name is ___ and I am calling to leave a message for Board of Regents Regent Chair Richard Beeson.

I am alarmed by the ongoing news about research abuses against mentally ill patients in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychiatry. I am especially disturbed by the misleading and deceptive statements issued by University of Minnesota officials, including the claims that these research abuses have already been investigated.

I am calling to ask the Board of Regents to take action to answer two questions.

1) How many research subjects have died or been seriously injured in psychiatric research studies at the university since the current Chair of Psychiatry, Dr. Charles Schulz, was appointed in 1999?

2) Why is President Eric Kaler refusing to investigate the suicide of Dan Markingson?

The Board of Regents has an obligation to make this information publicly available. Please contact me at the following number:

Gov. Mark Dayton
Phone 651-201-3437651-201-3437
Toll Free: 800-657-3717800-657-3717

Suggest script:

My name is ___ and I am calling to leave a message for Gov. Mark Dayton.

I am alarmed by the ongoing news about research abuses against mentally ill patients in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychiatry. I am especially disturbed by the refusal of President Eric Kaler to investigate the suicide of Dan Markingson, despite a Faculty Senate resolution calling for an investigation. I believe it is the responsibility of Governor Dayton to ensure the protection of vulnerable, mentally ill patients at a state university.

I am asking Governor Dayton to respond to the petition calling for an investigation of the death of Dan Markingson that was delivered to him four months ago. In addition, Governor Dayton should demand that the University of Minnesota make publicly available the number research subjects that have died or been seriously injured in psychiatric research studies since the current Chair of Psychiatry, Dr. Charles Schulz, was appointed in 1999.

Please contact me at the following number:

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University of Minnesota Solicits “Bids” for Investigation on “Purchasing Services” Website

In a MinnPost op-ed about the U’s decision to solicit “bids” for an investigation into research abuse on a “Purchasing Services” website, Leigh Turner writes: “This limited review is both absurd and fully consistent with the decade-long refusal by university administrators to promote anything resembling a legitimate inquiry into possible research misconduct involving vulnerable patients with mental illnesses.”

Read the entire blast here.

“I believe his role was to recruit patients for clinical trials,” Kathy Swanson said

Before 17 year-old Michael Swanson stole his parents’ car and killed two convenience store clerks in Iowa, he was seen by University of Minnesota psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Jensen.  Jensen diagnosed Swanson with bipolar affective disorder and recommended the antipsychotic drug Abilify.  “There’s a real concern about his use of force,” Jensen wrote. “It would seem to me that likelihood of his repeating the theft of guns, robbery of people is probable and that without anti-psychotic medication, he may carry out these behaviors.”

Instead of treating Swanson, however, according to a Fox 9 television report, Jensen recommended that he be enrolled in a research clinic at the University of Minnesota. Swanson’s family did not see Jensen’s report until 4 months later when attorneys got a copy for the murder trial.  Then they learned that Jensen was concerned their son was a “risk to society if un-medicated.”

Watch the entire Fox 9 story by investigative reporter Jeff Baillon here.

Thirteen University of Minnesota alumni working in medical ethics at other universities have published an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune calling on President Eric Kaler to investigate the suicide of Dan Markingson.

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler

They write:

Unfortunately, rather than working to be accountable and transparent, the university administration has taken a relentlessly defensive posture — hiding behind its lawyers, targeting its critics and distorting the facts.

The alumni go on to write:

Yet University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler appears intent on continuing the university’s efforts to avoid scrutiny. In a recent interview with the Minnesota Daily, Kaler said that the inquiry will not look at Markingson’s death at all, but rather will focus solely on “what we are doing now and what we’re going to do moving forward.”

Such a limited inquiry would defeat the purposes of the Senate’s action. Although the resolution does call for an inquiry into the university’s current practices, the Senate left no doubt that the aims of that investigation included resolving “questions [that] continue to be raised about the policies and procedures followed in the Markingson case” and addressing the harm to the university’s reputation “in consequence of this tragic case and its aftermath.”

Any inquiry that merely considers the university’s forms and policies without examining the experiences of actual research subjects would only further erode confidence in the institution and compound the harm to its reputation.

Read the rest of the editorial here.

Will the University of Minnesota whitewash a research subject’s death?

Nature News: Patient’s suicide forces belated university investigation

Nature’s David Cyranoski writes:

“But will this new investigation put the matter to rest? The resolution specified an investigation of “current” practices and makes no explicit reference to re-opening the Markingson case, although it mentions it as the trigger for its investigation and it includes a clause noting the special demands for “oversight of clinical research involving adult participants with diminished functional abilities” — a clear reference to Markingson.”

“On 10 December, university president Eric Kaler told the Minnesota Daily, a student-run newspaper, that he is ‘willing to take the advice of the Senate and the panel’, with the goal of airing “out clearly and very publicly what we do and have a panel of external experts validate that and be sure we are doing this absolutely as well as can be done”. But, he added, it will not examine the Markingson case: ‘It’s not a review of the Markingson case; it’s a review of what we are doing now and what we’re going to do moving forward.’”

The rest of the Nature article is here.

University of Minnesota Faculty Senate resolves to review controversial research

On Thursday, December 5, the Faculty Senate voted 67-23 to review clinical research at the university, prompted by a letter signed by over 170 scholars asking for an investigation into the Markingson scandal.  You can read more at the links below.


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