Dangerous Ethics Oversight in Purdue Child Nutritional Study: Fordham University’s Dr. Celia Fisher Weighs In

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This past July. an $8.8 million dollar, camp-like nutrition study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was shut down, resulting in a vast internal investigation at Purdue University, one of the nation’s top research institutions, and raising several issues about research ethics and the role of institutional review boards (IRBs), according to Undark. What went wrong? A video of an adolescent girl showering in a dormitory was posted on social media.

The study, Camp DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)  was designed to evaluate effects of a low sodium diet on 11- to 15-year-old boys and girls with elevated blood pressure. Purdue University were set to host the children in campus housing for seven weeks in the summer.

The University President Mitch Daniels shut down the study two weeks early after the incident was reported to the police and the county prosecutor began looking into additional allegations of crimes among adolescents in the study. Daniels An investigation led by Purdue University’s Vice President for Ethics and Compliance, Alysa Christmas Rollock was launched soon after. Rollock’s investigation, which Purdue University released November 28, shows over “thirty incidents of threats, violence, or sexual abuse among the study participants, many involving calls to campus police. (Two participants were arrested in the first few days of the study.)” Additionally, Rollock reported several “instances of non-compliance on the part of the study’s principal investigator, or PI, Connie Weaver, that may have contributed to unsafe conditions for the minor participants” as well as “various conflicts of interest inherent in the study’s design.”

Dr. Celia Fisher, Professor of Psychology and Ethics at Fordham University and Director of the University’s Center for Ethics Education explained to Undark that “even if the NIH approved the trial design for the Camp DASH study, they would have relied on the university’s IRB to work out the details for the protection of study participants.”

Fisher, who has been working in the field of research ethics involving vulnerable populations for several decades, and who chaired the creation of the current American Psychological Association Ethics Code, said that she would have expected Purdue University’s IRB approval to be contingent on the “gold standard in counselors.” She continued, after discovering the counselors were primarily undergraduate students, “To have a sleepover camp for young teenagers supervised by 18 to 21-year-olds who do not have an adult supervisor there monitoring…I can’t even.”

Because no federal regulations require that members of IRBs be “scientists or know anything about scientific ethics,” Fisher explained, “not all IRBs are created equal…and vary significantly from institution to institution.” IRBs are typically pulled from university faculty and not paid for their work on the board. She added that because there is a “diverse range of expertise” among IRB members that is not well-suited to every study, “They [IRB members] may try very hard to apply ethical standards, but if they have no understanding of the type of research that’s being conducted, then they may not be able to identify all the risks and benefits of the participation.”

The problem, Fisher concluded, with most university IRB members is that the “lack of expertise and the lack of funding that they get” despite being genuinely interested in the protection of human subjects.”

As a result of the investigation, the study’s remaining three summers of the study are cancelled and “all of the collected data will be thrown out.” The biomedical institutional review board (IRB) of the University stated in late November that future study applications submitted by Weaver will not be reviewed until she submits a “comprehensive remediation plan,” including training and oversight by an outside mentor, according to the article.

Weaver, the study’s PI, released a statement last Tuesday that said, “I am deeply saddened by the instances that caused Camp DASH to end early. As the principal investigator, I accept responsibility for events that occurred at Camp DASH. The safety and security of research participants always comes first.”

Please visit Undark to read the full article, “Purdue University Mounted a Child Nutrition Study. It Went Very, Very Wrong.


Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. is the Fordham University Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics Education and the HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training InstituteFisher’s  Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologist, is now in its fourth edition from Sage Publications.

 

Projection NOT Promotion: Why the Violence of Sports is Ethical in Society

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STUDENT VOICES

By Maria Trivelpiece

It is quite difficult to get through a day without hearing or seeing some mention of sports or athletics in our world. They practically dominate society. Professional athletes are some of the highest paid people on the planet. They are the epitome of what children aspire to be, fans fawn over and television networks profit from. Yet, in the midst of all the glory of these games, the evident violence that accompanies them seems to be conveniently overlooked. But is it okay to simply ignore that the most watched event on television is a game of grown men tackling each other, beating each other and then celebrating the fact that they physically harmed another human being? Is it ethical to teach our children that the most exciting moment in ice hockey is when the defensemen drop their gloves and fist fight? I am here to say that it is. The violence of sports, in technicality, is ethical because sports are not promoting violence, but rather mimicking and projecting the society that we live in.

We want to rationalize and determine if an action is ethical. Just recently we have seen Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem and cannot imagine why anyone would even condemn him for expressing his freedom of speech. But then, we see the war veteran without legs who so bravely defended our country and does not have the privilege to stand for the flag he fought for and our ‘ethical’ minds question, what is right and what is wrong?

The same dilemma happens in sports; however, we fail to see both sides. We see the violence of football, boxing and ice hockey, and automatically determine that this is affecting us, our children and the way our society functions. On the contrary, we do not look at the violence already in society and in some way see how it reflects itself and impacts sports.

Violence in the sporting arena has been around longer than historians may even know. Gladiators fought until the death and 20,000 people encouraged the fighters to slaughter each other. In 1930, Maximillian Adelbert Baer killed a man in the boxing ring and spectators cheered until they realized his opponent was not moving. It seems that we as fans love this ferocity. We watch in awe and anticipation, and almost thrive off of the viciousness within the arena.

But why does the violence make us feel invigorated, even happy? I believe the answer lies deep within the human soul. We all have our own opponents. Every single day we wake up there are obstacles we have to face, problems looking to crush us and the unstableness of life. This instability causes anxiety. It causes anger. We cannot always understand why bad events tend to happen. We cannot understand why they happen in general, not only to us, but to humanity. When evil attacks, our response is to fight it. We do not welcome it with open arms into our lives, but rather, we wish to eradicate it from ever coming near the people and things that we so love.

So we wrestle with the malevolence; we stand up for ourselves, we protest, we fight for our beliefs just as the gladiators looked to defend themselves and the defensive lineman looks to tackle the running back charging towards him. In sports the opponent is the evil, trying to invade our basket, our end zone, our goal line, which at that moment is the most valuable piece of life. When we defeat the challenger and win the passing of a particular job or make the game-winning basket, then, we feel alive. We have defeated that invasion, rising victorious.

The violence of sports is a projection of society, not a promotion of actions. Sports respond to the way that human beings act. Charles Darwin theorized about survival of the fittest in 1859. The animal, the human being, the plant, that knows how to adapt, knows how to defeat the other to survive. We cannot blame sports for influencing violence in the world, when there is an inherent desire to demolish the competition within all creatures of this earth. Sports project this tendency that already exists. If we are unhappy with the climate of the sporting arena then the only way to change it would be to change the climate of life.

So, in the most literal and figurative way, the ball is in your court to decide if this violence is ethical or not. But before you decide, look at the world around you. See the wickedness that occurs every day in many different ways and then determine whether this is because of sports or if sports are simply a slightly more manageable way of projecting this wickedness in ways that are more controlled than most acts of vice in the society of our time.

Maria Trivelpiece ’19 is a student at Fordham College Rose Hill. She is double majoring in psychology and journalism. 

Fordham University’s Dr. Celia B. Fisher on Bystander Apathy

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Since the election of Donald Trump in November, there has been a 35 percent increase in hate crimes across New York City, according to Straus News.  Throughout the presidential campaign, reported NYPD statistics of the city’s hate crime count has doubled in a year with 43 incidents in the 27 days following the election. The rhetoric and tone of the Trump campaign targeted many minorities and could be the reason for this rise.

These hate crimes and incidents included verbal and physical assaults on two Muslim women, a police officer and an MTA employee, and swastika graffiti in multiple places including the NYC subway and inside the elevator of state Senator Brad Hoylman’s apartment building. New Yorkers met for a workshop last month to educate themselves and help others by speaking up for victims of these attacks.

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Fordham Panel to Address Questions about Human Rights in Age of Fear, Violence and Scarce Resources 

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By: Michael Aprea       

Few realities have shaken the foundation of human rights and the inherent liberties viewed common to all as profoundly as fear. Human rights, the set of rights believed to be intrinsic to the human person, are the cornerstone of modern society. They are the very building blocks of our nation and of the free world.

On April 5th, the Fordham Center for Religion and Culture and the Fordham Center for Ethics Education will hold an interdisciplinary forum to address questions about the endurance of human rights in the wake of society’s struggle to maintain both justice and compassion in world torn by violence, injustice, hatred and limited resources. This symposium, titled “In Good Conscience: Human Rights in an age of Terrorism, Violence, and Limited Resources,” will feature distinguished speakers:

Ivan Šimonović: Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Consolee Nishimwe: Rwandan genocide survivor and author of Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, and Hope.

Celia B. Fisher, PhD: Marie Ward Doty University Endowed Chair and Professor of Psychology, Director Center for Ethics Education, Fordham University

Matthew C. Waxman: Liviu Librescu Professor of Law; Faculty Chair, Roger Hertog Program on Law and National Security, Columbia University

Andrea Bartoli, PhD: Dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University

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In Good Conscience: Human Rights in an Age of Terrorism, Violence, and Limited Resources

Pervasive fears sparked by acts of terror, violent crime and resource scarcity test our values and raise critical questions about how enduring our support for human rights may be.

When does the right to live safely and securely trump our obligation to uphold basic human rights? Is our attitude toward extreme remedies such as capital punishment and torture rooted in principle or in pragmatism? What do we owe survivors of genocide and other tragedies?

Join us for a forum on the challenge of upholding human rights, compassion and justice in an increasingly insecure world, April 5th, 2016, 6 – 8 p.m., Fordham Law School.

Admission is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to crcevent@fordham.edu, or call 212-636-7347. For more information, please visit the conference website.

Continue reading “In Good Conscience: Human Rights in an Age of Terrorism, Violence, and Limited Resources”