Friday, December 31, 2004

Commercial Corruption of the National Institutes of Health

Although democratic transhumanists support public financing of health care research, the recent evidence of conflicts of interest on the part of scientists at the National Institutes of Health, documented by the Los Angeles Times, raises red flags.
* Dr. P. Trey Sunderland III, a senior psychiatric researcher, took $508,050 in fees and related income from Pfizer Inc. at the same time that he collaborated with Pfizer - in his government capacity - in studying patients with Alzheimer's disease. Without declaring his affiliation with the company, Sunderland endorsed the use of an Alzheimer's drug marketed by Pfizer during a nationally televised presentation at the NIH in 2003.

* Dr. Lance A. Liotta, a laboratory director at the National Cancer Institute, was working in his official capacity with a company trying to develop an ovarian cancer test. He then took $70,000 as a consultant to the company's rival. Development of the cancer test stalled, prompting a complaint from the company. The NIH backed Liotta.

* Dr. Harvey G. Klein, the NIH's top blood transfusion expert, accepted $240,200 in fees and 76,000 stock options over the last five years from companies developing blood-related products. During the same period, he wrote or spoke out about the usefulness of such products without publicly declaring his company ties.

Announcing such ties is not required by the NIH. The agency has encouraged outside consulting, and has allowed most of its scientists to file confidential income disclosure forms.

Supported by the taxpayers at a cost this year of $28 billion, the NIH oversees research with a mission to extend healthy life and to reduce "the burdens of illness and disability."
Clearly, more rigorous defense of public agencies from being undermined by private commercial interests needs also to be on the public health and dem-trans agenda.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Human Rights Groups Rally to Defend ReproTech Access in Costa Rica

A Costa Rican Supreme Court ban on invitro fertilization has led to an international campaign to defend assisted reproduction as a reproductive right.
"What we're seeing is conservative groups using the law in any way they can to place obstacles to women's choices," said Luisa Cabal, deputy director of the international legal Program of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and an expert on reproductive rights in Latin America.

"This is not an isolated case. It is part of an articulated legal strategy, attacking the same legal foundation that upholds other women's rights and trying to mislead the courts into saying that the international law protects the right to life of the fetus."

Several international human-rights principles support the Costa Rican couples, said Cabal, including the right to form a family, right to privacy, right to reproductive self-determination and right to benefit from scientific progress.
For more information:
"Costa Rican IVF Ban Faces Human-Rights Test "

Center for Reproductive Rights-- Center Joins Couples' Legal Battle Against Costa Rica's IVF Ban

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Petition