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Scientist’s Widow Sues Over Radiotherapy Trial

December 9, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Medical Ethics, Neuroradiology, Practice Management
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A former University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist who died from brain cancer in 2011 was exposed to harmful radiation as part of a study, but was not capable of giving true consent to participate, according to a lawsuit filed by his widow.

Jeffrey Ware, PhD, died in October 2011 at age 47. The lawsuit says he could not have given informed consent to be part of the trial because gliosarcoma and two brain surgeries had left him cognitively impaired. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the study involved treating the gliosarcoma with experimental high levels of radiation. Some evidence indicates an association between radiation exposure and the formation of gliosarcomas, although the research is not definitive.

Dr. Ware’s widow, Barbara Boyer, is a staff writer for the Inquirer. She said she did not learn that her husband had become part of the study, nor that it involved such levels of radiation, until it was well underway. She told the Daily Pennsylvanian that had she known more about the study, she would have discouraged Dr. Ware from participating:

When I later found out about it, they misrepresented the details of the study, and it appears that they withheld important information which certainly would have influenced our decision to participate in that study had we been fully aware.

The Daily Pennsylvanian is Penn’s independent student newspaper.

As a researcher, Dr. Ware studied the effects of radiation on astronauts. The lawsuit says he was exposed to unsafe levels of radiation during that work.

Boyer also objected to the involvement of Gary Kao, MD, a radiation oncologist at Penn, in the study and named him in the lawsuit. In 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sanctioned Dr. Kao after finding that he took part in 91 procedures in which military veterans suffering from prostate cancer received the wrong doses from radioactive seeds that were incorrectly implanted.

Penn Medicine spokesperson Susan Phillips told the Daily Pennsylvanian that the suit was “without merit” and that Penn would mount a vigorous defense.

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An Atlanta researcher takes another step in his quest to use MRI to learn how dogs think. For details, and a link to an adorable photo, see our Facebook page.

Related CME seminar (up to 21 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Neuro and Musculoskeletal Imaging

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