A Bumpy Road Or A Seismic Cataclysm That Has Tainted CFS Science And The CFS Community — We Need To Get To The Bottom Of It
By John Herd
January 28, 2012
In the perfect world science should be pure. The scientific process of validation should drive science forward, or if necessary get it back on track if it wanders astray.
That’s in the perfect world, how people would like it to be.
But we do not live in a utopian world; sometimes secondary factors impede or even corrupt science.
Do we want to see science tangled in the courts? Very often the answer is no for many reasons.
For one, the public gets a bad taste when science leaves the research and clinical labs and sinks into the courts. Additionally, the judicial process may cast a legal judgment as opposed to a scientific judgment.
Sometimes judicial ‘judgement’ does not even mean justice. Sometimes it merely reflects who has the most money for litigation and/or the best lawyers. It’s not necessarily the best scientific course of action or even the fairest way to go.
In the case of medical research, there are other well established avenues for resolving many kinds of problems related to medical research and those conducting it.
Institutional review boards (IRBs) are responsible and required to monitor medical research involving humans. IRBs were created to monitor medical research and address research abuses and ethical problems if they should arise. In the case of medical research at or affiliated to an academic institution, assuring research integrity and that of parties conducting research is a required function of the IRBs.
The Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) had to have an IRB before conducting its research and before receiving government grants. The management of IRBs at the University of Nevada [where WPI resides] is handled by the Office of Human Research Protection. Unless WPI used an independent IRB I presume the university’s IRB would be well equipped to investigate possible irregularities that we’ve seen discussed on the Internet.
Within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) there is the Office for Research Integrity which assists institutions investigate matters pertaining to medical research. They can launch their own investigations and also have many capabilities for assisting institutional IRBs in their investigations.
Might the DHHS Division of Grants Compliance and Oversight, the Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration and the Office of Extramural Research also have authority and to investigate matters pertaining to the NIH grant that was awarded to WPI?
These are bodies far better equipped than the judicial system to investigate irregularities pertaining to medical research and the institutions conducting it. They have the expertise to do so, and unlike the judicial system they do so from and independent and therefore less biased position.
So what of all the problems that have percolated up within WPI?
When a pattern of problem after problem arise in an organization, and they’re always being blamed on ‘the other people,’ one has to pause and think maybe the problems are rooted not in the others but in the organization itself.
The Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) has had a very significant history of “the doctors who didn’t,” that didn’t work out.
Dr. Daniel Peterson, one of the institute’s founders and its medical director, left WPI under contentious circumstances.
Dr. Jamie Deckoff-Jones, the director of clinical services, separated from WPI again under what again appeared to have been troublesome circumstances.
And then Dr. Judy Mikovits, the research director separated from WPI. To call that separation “contentious circumstances” would be a gross understatement; WPI lashed out at her with a flurry of criminal and civil legal actions.
Were these legal actions merely to get back data that WPI claims ownership of, or was their strategy to silence Dr. Mikovits from disclosing serious management, research and other more serious problems within the institute?
If WPI were [as they claim] first and foremost interested in the patients, would they not want to share research data reportedly in some of the infamous research notebooks mentioned in the legal actions? By sharing the information could not other investigators possibly also help move the science ahead? Sorry but WPI’s stated reasons for the scope of their legal actions does not in my opinion cut it.
And why is WPI going after Dr. Mikovits for damages in their civil lawsuit? Is this a legal shell game strategy to distract the public from thinking, realizing, that the damages hinted about in the lawsuits may be a long succession of WPI self-inflicted damages not by Dr. Mikovits but by themselves?
Might WPI’s seemingly rabid determination to get the noted research notebooks back without sharing what was in them only or merely a case of their wanting back the data they viewed as theirs alone, or might they have also been concerned what was in them that may have reveled deeper problems within the organization?
We’ve seen WPI mount a vicious legal fight to get not just all of Dr. Mikovits’ business email but also her personal email. WPI has been ardent about keeping inside matters inside, in essence gagging Dr. Mikovits from speaking of what went on within WPI.
When one sees such an over the top frenzied activity to squelch the release of any and all internal data, it quite logically makes one think, what are they trying to hide? Was there something far more important than merely research data in ‘the notebooks,’ possibly information that would have been self-incriminating for WPI?
There have been many innuendos circulated on the Internet for a long time of WPI’s questionable business and financial dealings, including talk of misappropriation of funds, possibly even government grant funds. While such talk isn’t confirmed fact, the line “where there’s smoke there’s fire” comes to mind.
But there’s not just a fire; there’s now a fire storm. The Whittemore’s Wingfield company business partners have now filed lawsuit against them, claiming that the Whittemores “embezzled [many] millions of dollars.” They claim that the financial records which Whittemore supposedly managed were laced with problems. The partners claim Whittemore embezzled a huge amount of funds for not just a wide range of personal uses but also “to benefit his company the Whittemore Peterson Institute.”(1)
When we hear such charges of “fraud, deception and malfeasance”(1) being conducted by the Whittemores, even in association with Whittemore Peterson Institute, how likely is it that that river flows in two directions, that there hasn’t been such wrong doing inside the institute also? Aren’t the phrase ‘business records’ and ‘notebooks’ pretty interchangeable?
And that fire storm keeps growing. The judge hearing the WPI/Mikovits court case supposedly has had a long close relationship with Harvey Whittemore; just do a Google search of the judge’s name with Whittemore’s and see what comes up. It’s not surprising that in a state where the Whittemores have had such strong political and financial clout that the tentacles of corruption could reach into the judicial system as well. Power corrupts. Should not a judge in such a position have removed himself from such a case? Clearly these cases should be put on hold until proper independent authorities can conduct thorough investigations.
In the world of public relations appearance is everything. It’s very convenient to accuse/blame Dr. Mikovits for “damages” WPI has supposedly experienced. Many if not most of those damages may not have had anything to do with Dr. Mikovits.
For years now we well informed patient advocates have seen public statements coming from WPI and statements made in television interviews which have in our eyes seemed to be not just questionable political spin but flagrant contradictions to matters as we’ve seen them.
WPI’s public relations efforts have in our our opinion been a repetition of contradictory damage control efforts coming from an organization that has made one misstep after another.
Given WPI’s very problematic history, is this the type of organization we trust to conducting medical research with the limited funds we have? Is this the type of organization we trust to to represent us on the medical and research stage? And given the ever increasing history of problems for WPI, would you really want to go to the institute for clinical care?
WPI minimized the ugly chapter of differences with Dr. Mikovits and the legal actions as “a bump in the road.” If these matters have been merely a bump in the road, the institute better get a Humvee to navigate whatever lays ahead. For I can’t imagine any doctors, patients, institutions, or philanthropist wanting future involvement with WPI given their track record.
I for one would like to see WPI open all their files to independent investigation of how they have functioned so we may eventually know the truth rather than it remaining behind a he said she said status, or continuing to be totally hidden behind PR spin.
It’s not just about WPI’s activities pertaining to Dr. Mikovits; it’s about the whole succession of events that have eroded the public’s good will, support and trust.
(1) Lawsuit claims Harvey Whittemore embezzled millions of dollars from former business partners, Reno Gazette-Journal, Jan. 27, 2012