This is an amazing story from the Associated Press about official misconduct of many different types at the National Institutes of Health. The allegations include sexual harrassment, a hostile workplace, abuse of taxpayer funds, lax attention to safety standards, retaliation against a whistleblower. Apparently all of this is coming out now due to testimony provided in a congressional investigation into the whistleblower's claims. Unfortunately, the article throws everything together in a big mess, so it is hard to keep it all straight.
WASHINGTON - A boss sends a red bra to a former female subordinate who had a falling out with him. Government e-mails distribute profanity and a picture of a partly nude woman. An order to better protect patients in a medical experiment takes two years to complete.
All of that happened inside the National Institutes of Health, the nation's premier medical research agency, according to sworn testimony and other documents obtained by The Associated Press from a variety of sources inside and outside the NIH.
Two senior female officers testified that the NIH workplace is so uncomfortable and intimidating that safety concerns are frequently dismissed and some employees are afraid to speak up.
Documents tell of women being hugged or kissed by bosses, or being subjected to catcalls in the hallway. In one instance, a supervisor invited a colleague to a West Coast rock concert and suggested they also visit an AIDS clinic there so the trip could be charged to taxpayers.
[NIH medical officer Betsy] Smith and the top regulatory compliance officer in the NIH's AIDS division, Mary Anne Luzar, stepped forward in interviews with investigators and in sworn depositions in recent weeks and expanded upon allegations made last year by an agency whistleblower, Dr. Jonathan Fishbein. Their videotaped testimony was given in Fishbein's lawsuit against the agency.
Fishbein alleges he is in the process of being fired as the AIDS division's chief of human research protection because he raised concerns about patient safety and shoddy science. NIH says he was fired for poor performance.
The Senate and the inspector general at the Health and Human Services Department are investigating the allegations. In addition, officials told the AP that NIH is conducting an internal investigation on sexual harassment.
Luzar, the AIDS division's compliance officer, alleged that her bosses frequently sided with the front-line researchers they are financing, rather than with the agency's safety and regulatory experts.
"I think we (safety officials) got in the way, and that we were an impediment to the science," Luzar testified. She described the division managers as "totally unsupportive" of safety concerns and bending to "tremendous pressure" from drug companies and researchers in the name of trying to cure AIDS.
"I think the culture was certainly strong for a period of time that the ends could justify the means," she testified.
Smith said Fishbein was a strong advocate for improving safety for research participants and the effort to fire him is "a warning to other individuals."
After Fishbein was forced out, she said, NIH held a meeting at which he and his allegations were attacked and a picture of one of Fishbein's relatives was shown on a screen. Smith said the event was so intimidating that fellow safety and medical officers "called it scientific terrorism."
(Via Democratic Underground.)