A suicide draws attention to the ethics of psychiatric drug testing


10 Responses to “A suicide draws attention to the ethics of psychiatric drug testing”

  1. Boundegar says:

    When my father was diagnosed with cancer, some of us urged him to try experimental treatments being studied at NIH.  He joked, “I wouldn’t want to wind up in the control group,” but I think he had a point.

    The ethics around studies like this seem to be getting better, but there’s still a risk factor.

    • Florian Bösch says:

      Apart from the obvious (transparency, consent etc.) how can it get “better”?

      Somebody has to try the new drug, and somebody has to end up in the control group receiving the placebo. One group is guaranteed to die, and the other carries the risk of test driving if it actually works and any side effects that nobody knows about.

      It’s basically a suicide commando, biochemical kamikaze, somebody has to do it, but ethically? Whom but the very desperate will? And what about bias? People afflicted in a way that compels them to partake in such a study are likely not a very representative test group for the general population.

      Maybe it’s time to start thinking about brain-dead human clones, gotta be better than mice, cellcultures and pigs.

      • Lexica says:

         If a treatment exists, even if it’s not fully effective, it would be unethical to design a study that tested an experimental drug against a placebo. The usual way of testing new drugs compares them to existing treatments, not to no treatment/placebo treatment.

  2. DisGuest says:

    There was no consent. How did they get away with this? The patient couldn’t consent because he was involuntarily institutionalized. How does the doctor get to consent to unproven treatment without the mother’s approval? 

    • Boundegar says:

      It sounds like the hospital reserves the right to rent out its residents for use as guinea pigs.  What could possibly go wrong?

  3. BCElliott says:

    For more discussion of the Dan Markingson case and other ethical controversies with the University of Minnesota Department of Psychiatry, visit the Facebook page Community Alliance for Ethics in Minnesota Psychiatry.


  4. Daemonworks says:

    I’m always a little wierded out when I see a medication that has “may cause suicide” or the like on it’s list of potential side effects.

    I have to wonder what the precise legal limit is in terms of the percentage of users killing themselves, for example.

    • Lilah says:

      In some (but not all cases), suicide is proposed to be an effect of the efficacy of the drug. For example, doctors are warned to closely follow a patient starting an antidepressant, because if the medicine begins to work the patient may have the energy to carry out a suicide plan he or she had already formulated, but previously been literally too depressed to act on.

  5. bzishi says:

    Marsha Linehan gave a lecture a couple of years ago on the ethics and difficulties with performing research on people at risk for suicide. She also explained how the studies can be misleading due to the exclusion of high risk individuals. Most psychiatric drugs are tested on people who are in a lower risk category. The big problem is that since most ethical guidelines don’t allow research on high risk individuals, doctors can only assume that a psychiatric drug will help a high risk person. And without a clinical trial that will likely endanger the health of the high risk individuals, it will be extremely difficult to develop drugs or other types of treatment that will work for them.

  6. If everyone is on drugs for not being normal, then who is to say what normal is?

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