The widow of a former Penn researcher who died from brain cancer in 2011 is alleging that her husband was exposed to harmful radiation without giving proper consent.
Barbara Boyer, who is the widow of Penn alumnus and former Penn neuroscientist Jeffrey Ware, filed a complaint against the University and several affiliates on Tuesday, alleging that her husband agreed to experimental radiation therapy at Penn without her knowledge. She told the Daily Pennsylvanian that her husband was “cognitively impaired” when he gave his consent.
Boyer claimed that she would have discouraged her husband from participating had she known the full details of the study. She said that had she known a specific doctor, Gary Kao, was involved that she would have “strongly discouraged Jeff from participating … and I believe that he would have made a different decision.”
Kao, a Penn radiation oncologist, had previously been sanctioned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for misusing radiation treatment on cancer patients. He is also one of the named defendants in the suit.
“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,” Boyer told the DP on Thursday.
On Wednesday evening, Penn Medicine spokesperson Susan Phillips said that the allegations of the suit were “without merit” and that Penn “will vigorously defend against [it].”
Boyer responded to that statement, saying that “we welcome Penn’s response [to the suit]. We’ve been trying to get documents from them from day one.” She said that she still has not seen the paperwork Ware signed to participate in the study.
The suit also includes allegations that Ware was exposed to unsafe amounts of radiation during his tenure as a researcher at Penn. Ware studied the effects of radiation on astronauts during deep space exploration in the lab of Ann Kennedy, a Penn radiation biologist who is a defendant in the suit.
The complaint filed with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas this week alleges that Kennedy’s lab “failed to follow clear regulations requiring individual [radiation] dose monitoring of all workers.”
Boyer said that Penn denied Ware’s requests for worker’s compensation before his death. “I always felt that Jeff’s disease was related to his work,” she said. “Penn has denied the benefits and that’s what brought us to the Court of Common Pleas.”
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