By PAUL THACKER
Yesterday, POGO sent a letter to President Obama asking that Dr. Amy Gutmann be removed as chair of the commission that advises the President on bioethics. We did so because Dr. Gutmann has ignored serious allegations of research misconduct regarding a senior professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is President.
If Dr. Gutmann cannot deal with bioethical concerns on her own campus, with her own faculty, then how can taxpayers trust her to advise the President of the United States?
Quite frankly, I don’t have a clue.
Here are the facts. Last November, POGO sent a letter to Dr. Francis Collins at the National Institutes of Health about four cases where federally funded researchers used a ghostwriting company paid by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to write manuscripts that were favorable to Paxil, an antidepressant sold by GSK.
According to documents we included with the letter, GSK apparently paid a ghostwriter to write a scientific editorial for a medical journal with the byline of Dr. Dwight Evans, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Just so you know, Penn has stated publicly that they consider corporate-funded ghostwriting in medicine to be plagiarism. So how did Penn respond to this allegation of plagiarism? Did they launch an investigation? Did they take the matter up with the faculty senate?
Nope. They just blew it off.
A university spokesman told Penn’s student newspaper:
While we support any effort to promote scientific integrity, we believe that the allegations of ghostwriting made by POGO regarding a short editorial authored in 2003 by Drs. Evans and Charney are unfounded. (Emphasis added)
On Friday, a senior professor of psychiatry at Penn filed a complaint against Dr. Evans that includes allegations once again of potential ghostwriting in another study that favors GSK and Paxil. And because this study that Dr. Evans signed his name to was funded with taxpayer dollars, the complaint was sent to the federal government for investigation.
Until the University concludes a sincere and transparent investigation of these charges and takes decisive action to deter future ghostwriting, Dr. Gutmann should step aside as chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. This Commission advises President Obama on bioethics.
Dr. Gutmann’s bona fides on bioethics—to borrow a phrase from Penn’s own spokesperson—appear to be “unfounded.”
Students should really be pissed off that professors get away with this type of fraud when students receive steep penalties. What makes this all even more bizarre and insulting is that Dr. Evans is on the board of Penn’s Scattergood Program for the Applied Ethics of Behavioral Healthcare, a program dedicated to healthcare ethics.
“Ghost writing is definitely a form of cheating. It’s definitely punishable,” said Aaron Roth, a junior majoring in engineering and a member of Penn's student Honor Council, in a story last year in The Daily Pennsylvanian.
According to Roth, the punishment for plagiarism can range from a semester-long suspension to expulsion from Penn. And the punishment will get documented on a student’s transcript.
That’s for students. But for fully mature, grown-ass men running Penn, like Dwight Evans….Dr. Gutmann just looks the other way.
- Read POGO’s letter to President.
- Read Dr. Jay Amsterdam’s letter to the Office of Research Misconduct.
- Read Dr. Jay Amsterdam’s letter to UPenn.
Paul Thacker is a POGO Investigator.