Man with Schizophrenia Commits Suicide after Being Enlisted in University Drug Trial

by Project Censored

Dan Markingson, who was diagonosed with Schizophrenia, was placed into a financially motivated study with the University of Minnesota to test and compare the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs even though people, particularly Markingson’s mother, protested against the trials. Six months after the start of the trial in 2004, Dan Markingson committed suicide in May. This case, however, was ignored and pushed back with no further investigation. It wasn’t until last month that an external review was conducted, finding that “the school’s human research program was strong in some areas but weak in others, including a lack of expertise on the medical research board that evaluates projects,” which actually includes Dan Markingson’s case. Rumors started to leak that Dan Markingson was, in fact, forced into the trials by the University even though Dr. Stephen Olson, who served as Markingson’s psychiatrist, continually claimed that other treatment options were available besides the drug being tested. Either way, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler has promised lawmakers that the University shall create a “team to carry out the recommendations in that previous review, which include adding members to that board and spending more money on training. The University will also appoint a community oversight board to make sure the school’s human subject practices meet best standards.”


Kia Farhang, “Audit: Serious ethical issues in drug trial suicide,” AP, March 19, 2015

Student Researcher:  Cheyenne  Dong, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College

Ethics Alert:

This article centers around a case of drug experimentation on a human being who has Schizophrenia. This is a mental disorder that is often characterized by aberrant social behavior and the inability at times for a person to realize what is real and what is not. While Dan Markingson may have been conscious and aware, he might not have been entirely aware of the situation, and therefore not competent to consent.  In the article, it was also made clear that his mother had tried to intervene, protesting that the University should not let her son be a part of this experiment.

At the same time, the motivation of the University is questionable. The study was one based on a financial incentive, meaning that the University could have easily decided to not care for the people that were to be a part of the study as long as, in the end, the money was earned and received. Another point and argument that could be made is, through human experimentation of drugs, people are no longer treated as people, but rather as objects. Drug experimentation, especially on persons that could be easily taken advantage of, may be seen as inhumane, seeing people only as “lab rats”. Now, human experimentation of drugs may or may not be a necessary evil to ensure that the drug will not negatively affect the rest of the populous. But the primary ethical question is whether or not it is ethically right to experiment on people who are diagnosed with mental disorders that could impact a person’s decision making skills.