Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nancy Olivieri vs Miriam Shuchman

A physician noticed a serious issue during the clinical trail of a new drug, and decided to inform her patients and the academia the life threatening risk associated with using this drug. After all, presumably that's the whole point of doing this kind of trails. What a crime!

It is exactly the crime for which Dr. Nancy Olivieri had been punished by "five years of personal vilification, reprisals and harassment." And neither the Hospital for Sick Children where the trail was conducted, nor the University of Toronto who operated the hospital supported Dr. Nancy Olivieri in fulfilling her ethical obligations to her patients or her scientific obligations to the public.

The University of Toronto even makes a distinction between academic faculty and clinical faculty in terms of the range of academic ethics and freedom, in response to a report issued by the Canadian Association of University Teachers in which the University was accused of wrong doings in the case strangled with corporate money, in this case, money from the largest Canadian pharmaceutical company Apotex.

However ten years after the drug was pulled from North America, and five years after Dr. Nancy Olivieri won her substantial settlement and job reinstatement, Dr. Miriam Shuchman's new book "the Olivieri Case Revisited" offers an even blurred view of boundaries between right and wrong among major roles involved in the scandal as well as on what had really happened. In her book, Dr. Nancy Olivieri was portrayed as "one of these people who thinks whatever tune she has chosen at the moment, everyone must be dance to it". The argument is supported by the fact that it's Dr. Nancy Olivieri who made the questioned drug passed the scrutiny of FDA without setting proper protocol and monitoring, which ultimately resulted in the death of at least one patient. Dr. Nancy Olivieri's observing of academic ethics was also put in question when she inexcusably omitted warning data from her grant proposal to Canada's Medical Research Council seeking money for a long-term study of the drug. Further more, because of the media frenzy made by the publicity of the scandal, the otherwise helpful drug was basically blocked from the North American thalassemia patients.

A story always has two sides, or more. Perhaps we can say the same on the fact.

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