Sunday, March 13, 2011

Journalist Reports Duke Cancer Research Fraud & Duke Hires for Silence?

Medical research is at the heart of why health care is premier in the United States.  Medical research separates the United States from every other country in the world.  Duke University was once a phenomenal research facility with stellar standards and integrity.  Now, well, not so much.  

Researchers at Duke University routinely add and subtract patients from research studies like disposable ballpoint pens.  One wonders how Duke accounts for the changes in the result findings.  I was once told that the papers my dad signed "must have been signed in error" because "he was never in the study."  Curious.  

The entire "Anil Potti cancer fraud" scandal would be concerning for most reputable medical facilities.  But alas Duke University has another way of dealing with that which others may consider "scandalous."  A great Blog "Duke.Fact.Checker" cites an example and describes how a "problem" is handled.  
✔ Duke University has silenced one of the reporters who dug the deepest into university affairs. 

Fact Checker learned very early Wednesday morning from a concerned Loyal Reader that Sarah Avery has left the Raleigh News and Observer and has been hired at Duke. We confirmed the move with the city desk, but Avery does not yet have a listing at Duke (we checked with the overnight phone operator and on-line directory), and we did not want to wake PR VP Michael Schoenfeld at 2 AM to ask him if she's joining his department or what. 
One of Avery's most recent stories was a poignant portrayal of 63 year old Joyce Shoffner, breast cancer patient (or victim if you prefer) of the quack Dr Anil Potti. FC broke the news about her ordeal in December with exclusive posting of a letter that her brother sent to President Brodhead. At that time, Shoffner declined to speak -- but Avery elicited moving testimony from her that newspapers around the nation picked up because at last we saw a suffering face attached to the story.
Sample quote from the Shoffner article:
"She feels betrayed by Duke, an institution she trusted, and by science, an endeavor she has long championed. 'I'm devastated by this whole thing,' she said. "If you have a very serious cancer and two-and-a-half years later you think you are involved in a study that is cutting edge and [it's discredited], it is devastating."
We got tipped to Avery's move by a Loyal Reader whose daughter had surgery in 2004 at one of the two Duke operated hospitals (but not the main one on West Campus), and went from "a beautiful healthy single mother to someone that lives in pain and the unknown each and every day."
Duke operated on several thousand patients even though surgeons observed their instruments felt "slippery" and "greasy." Yes several thousand. The surgical instruments had been mistakenly washed in used hydraulic fluid from elevators, not sterilizing detergent. The results were devastating in some cases. 
Avery's work exposed the malpractice. But Duke kept the lid on the story by settling with many patients; it wore others out by immorally using its firepower to procrastinate lawsuits. One of the worst legal moves in FC's opinion involves a man who was not hurt: for five years Duke wouldn't tell him if he was exposed to the filthy hydraulic fluid, so he sued. It turned out he was not affected, and now Duke is suing the man to recover its defense lawyer costs. Some days I just seethe at Duke's general counsel Pam Bernard for such tactics.

As a

  • former Duke breast cancer patient, 
  • Duke patient who received implanted metal at Duke in December 2004 that caused my current bone infection and 
  • daughter of dad who died due to Duke's errors, I feel entitled to say . . . 

shame on Sarah Avery.  It appears Ms. Avery was bought off by the very institution (Duke University) that she reported against and purported to protect patients such as Joyce Shoffner from. Shameful.

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