As expected, the University settled out of court last week the lawsuit filed six weeks ago by the family of Jesse Gelsinger, the Arizona teenager who died last year during the course of a Penn gene therapy trial. We hope that the settlement brings to an end the Gelsinger family's long nightmare. We cannot imagine how difficult it was to endure not only Jesse's premature and tragic death, but the great uncertainty that followed as Penn officials and federal regulators traded shots over alleged violations of research protocol in the University's gene therapy program. But even as the University coarsely refuses to apologize for its role in your son's death, our heartfelt sympathy goes out to you. We also hope that the University has learned its lesson from this whole sordid affair. Researchers should know that they cannot ignore matters of protocol, no matter how minor or seemingly inconsequential. They carry the lives of the innocent in their hands. They should know that they must always be honest and forthright about their mistakes. The University's months of bickering with the Food and Drug Administration only tainted its image further as it provided weak, incomplete responses to serious federal charges. And they should know that financial considerations should never supersede their primary responsibility to patient care. As the settlement demonstrates, disregard for human life will only have negative consequences at the end of the day. Ultimately, with the case of Gelsinger v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania never going to trial, researchers and those with the responsibility for oversight of their work will never have to answer to charges in a public forum. It is perhaps a fitting, though unsatisfying conclusion for a long nightmare that began as Jesse Gelsinger, his lungs failing him, passed away in similar silence.Comments powered by Disqus
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