At last, a follow-up on a lawsuit that I initially covered on this blog in November 2008 involving a case that actually started in the 1990s.
Amanda Lee Myers of the Associated Press reports that the Havasupai tribe in Arizona has settled its lawsuits against Arizona State University for allegedly misusing blood samples. The tribal members had consented for their blood to be used for diabetes research, but it was ultimately used for other purposes that the members had never consented to. The case raised a number of important legal and ethical issues about the use of stored biological materials. According to Myers:
The settlement, which includes a lump $700,000 payment to the 41 plaintiffs, was approved Tuesday by the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
“We’re very pleased with the amount of the settlement,” said attorney Stephen Hanlon, who represents tribal members. “It’s a significant monetary settlement in a case in which no physical harm is claimed.”
ASU also will return the blood samples to the tribe and help build a new health clinic and high school on the isolated village that lies deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon.
I’m glad that the case is settled and that those whose privacy was breached will get something out of this. What was not mentioned in the AP report is what, if anything, happens to the research that was conducted without permission and then published. Will the investigators contact the journals and indicate that the research was conducted without consent or will everything just remain as it is? Does the settlement mean that the researchers involved can continue to cite and use the research they already conducted?