Dan Markingson's suicide: U of M attorney responds [UPDATE]

Categories: U of M

Courtesy Mary Weiss
Markingson committed suicide in 2004 while enrolled in an experimental study at the U of M.
University of Minnesota counsel Mark Rotenberg will meet with the Board of Regents to discuss a letter requesting an independent investigation into events surrounding Dan Markingson's 2004 suicide.

Eight U of M bioethicists sent the letter last week detailing potential ethical lapses they say may have led to Markingson taking his own life while enrolled in a clinical study at the college. Several more faculty members have since sent a subsequent letter to the Regents supporting the call for an investigation.

"The letter from the faculty is a serious letter," says Rotenberg. "We take it seriously. The issues they have raised our important to the university and we're going to respond respectfully to their letter."

Rotenberg explains his meeting with the Regents will be an informal briefing, and not open to the public. He could not comment on the specifics of what will be discussed.

"The details of what I say to my clients in our conversations are not something that I disclose to the public," he says.

On a related note, the Regents will not hear a report summarizing student concerns about Markingson's suicide at this week's meeting, despite the efforts of graduate student Matt McGeachy.

McGeachy, a history of medicine student, is one of seven student representatives to the Regents. In a report to the Regents, McGeachy wrote about student concerns regarding conflicts of interest at the U of M, such as those addressed during the recent Troubled Waters fiasco. He also included several paragraphs about lingering controversy surrounding Markingson's suicide.

Wrote McGeachy:

The University was exonerated of legal wrongdoing by many various agencies and courts in the Markingson case, and the Administration continues its inquiry into the handling of the Troubled Waters controversy. Yet students are left with a nagging feeling that the discussion ends prematurely with issues of the law.

After McGeachy submitted his portion of the report, a staff member working for the Board of Regents complained that McGeachy's report contained "stylistic concerns" and seemed to summarize only McGeachy's opinion.

In an e-mail, U of M spokesman Dan Wolter explains that the student representatives are meant to advocate for the student population -- not to push a single agenda.

"These reports are intended to represent the views of the various student organizations that the student representatives represent and not necessarily any one individual," says Wolter.

McGeachy argues that questions raised in his report are indeed representative of greater student concerns.

"I guess my question is, on what do they base this idea that it's just one student who's off here on a crusade?" asks McGeachy. "I mean, this has been discussed over and over again by the Graduate Professional Student Assembly. The Student Senate has discussed all of this. It's not like this is the Matt McGeachy club interested in conflicts of interest."

Students representatives chair Matt Privatsky ultimately decided to remove McGeachy's entire piece. He says the decision was not due to the content, but because the other student representatives did not have enough time to thoroughly review the piece and sign off on it by their deadline.

"More than anything, I think it was a time question," says Privatsky.

Here's the report McGeachy submitted in full:

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