University will reevaluate its human testing practices after critical report

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler told faculty leaders Friday that the university will change the way it treats human test subjects.

Last week, a review of the university's human research practices criticized the school — and, in particular, its psychiatry department — for not doing enough to protect vulnerable adults in its research.

Kaler said when the review began that he expected the report would validate the school's practices. He told the university's faculty senate Friday he had thought the school was doing better than it was.

"It is worrisome that we have such a distance to go to reach the very highest standards," he said.

The review was prompted in December 2013 by lingering faculty concerns over the 2004 suicide of a patient undergoing a clinical drug trial run by the university.

Critics say university researchers coerced Dan Markingson into participating in their clinical drug trial and then exploited him. Kaler has long defended the university's record, saying a previous federal investigation found no wrongdoing.

But lingering public concerns have prompted a state legislative audit, which is expected later this month.

Kaler says, despite last week's critical review, he still expects the state to find no wrongdoing in the Markingson case, but suggested the university's record won't necessarily be flawless.

"If there was an issue that arose to this panel about current practices," he said, "it wouldn't surprise me if it existed 10 years ago."

Kaler said the school will draft a reform plan in response to the review within 60 days.

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