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Prohibiting participation

Published (3/13/2009)
By Patty Ostberg
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Persons under state civil commitment would be prohibited from participating in a psychiatric clinical drug trial while the order is in effect, under a bill approved March 11 by the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee.

Mary Weiss testified that her son, Dan Markingson, committed suicide when participating in a 2004 drug trial. She voiced concerns to his case manager about his deteriorating condition, but was unsuccessful in pulling him out of the drug trial. “I have promised Dan that I will fight for the rights of the mentally ill until the day I die,” she said.

The bill, HF388, sponsored by Rep. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove), doesn’t exclude those who have tried multiple treatments, but failed to find one that is effective, said Sue Abderholden, executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Under the bill, those under commitment would lose their rights to make decisions, she said.

Many psychiatric drug trials already say patients at risk of suicide or of hurting others should not be recruited, said Dr. Carl Elliott, professor for the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. While participation in a drug study carries risk, patients under civil commitment may not understand what they are signing up for, he said.

Rep. Julie Bunn (DFL-Lake Elmo) said a provision should be added to the bill that would allow participation of a person who has tried multiple treatments that have failed.

The bill now goes to the House Civil Justice Committee.

A companion, SF431, sponsored by Sen. Don Betzold (DFL-Fridley), awaits action by the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee.

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