Monthly Archives: September 2008

More Universities Scrutinized over Financial Ties to Pharmaceutical Companies

Just last month, Stanford University announced a new policy limiting drug company financing of continuing education programs for healthcare professionals. Yet not all universities have been willing to cut their ties with big pharma.
Senator Chuck Grassley has demanded more accountability and cited a University of Texas researcher who received $150,000 from Glaxo SmithKline for research performed on the company’s anti-depressant drug Paxil. The fees were never disclosed, a violation of federal law.
The University of Texas is not the only institution caught in Grassley’s crosshairs. Harvard, Brown, and the University of Texas have been probed. Grassley has called for the National Institutes of Health to withdraw funding and grants from those universities that are not in compliance with the law.
This issue goes beyond just a matter of a conflict of interest. It’s really a matter of being a good corporate citizen and establishing trust with the public. If companies, institutions, or governments are not disclosing information they quickly lose the public’s trust. The public has a right to know about the documents conerning Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa. The public has a right to know about company documents concerning safety concerns of medical devices such as the Stryker hip, Kugel Hernia Mesh patch, and contamination issues surrounding the blood thinner heparin. It’s a matter of public interest and companies have a duty to inform the public about safety issues. Even institutions such as the Catholic Church have a duty to disclose to the public issues of public safety, most especially about child safety. When the church refuses to do so, it loses the public trust and its ability to be a moral force in the society.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. These companies and institutions have a duty to the general public. It’s part of the social compact and a bedrock of our democracy. Transparency is key to public trust as well as good public relations.

A Survivor of Priest Abuse in His own Words

Ken Scarborough is a Texan, a family man, and a man of faith. Yet he’s also a survivor of sexual abuse. Ken was abused by Rev. Dale Calhoun, a serial abuser who abused minors in Yakima Washington and Beaumont Texas. He was 15 years old at the time. A devout Catholic, Ken was active in his local Catholic parish when Calhoun began grooming him for his own vile purposes. He never told anyone about the abuse. Like scores of other sexual abuse victims, he kept the tragedy to himself.
After years of suffering in silence, Ken came forward. He met with the Bishop of Beaumont Texas only to rebuffed. Rather than listening to Ken’s story and offering pastoral concern, Ken felt as if he was brushed aside and the Bishop had washed his hands of him after telling him what “great work” the Diocese does in “reaching out” to victims. Here’s Ken’s final attempt to reach out to the Bishop:
Dear Bishop Guillory,
Sir, I wanted to write this letter just from me to you. No attorneys, no middle-men (Michael Jamail) …just the two of us. Fair enough? Firstly, I would like to explain to you that I am NOT angry, or upset with you for skating out of your responsibility to me, I am disappointed, but that’s ok, I’ve had lots of disappointments in my life lately and I am certain I will have many more. So, please know that this letter is NOT written in anger or bitterness. Ok?
Bishop, I would like for you to understand something sir, and I would like for you to understand it clearly.
In or around July of 1969, I WAS sexually molested at the St. Pius X Rectory in Beaumont Texas by the then Asst. Pastor; Ernest Dale Calhoun. I was 15 years old at the time. Now, sir weather or not you believe that is totally irrelevant to me at this time. Two years ago, the Roman Catholic Faithful and SNAP administered a polygraph to me WHICH I PASSED with FLYING COLORS. I have that documentation ANY time you might like to see it, although I won’t hold my breath. I read your lawyer’s response and it is crystal clear that both of you are basically calling me a LIAR. You don’t really believe that Dale Calhoun molested me….do you? Your lawyer’s letter could not have been clearer. I read it, my wife read it, my brother, my daughter, and most painfully…my 84 year old devout Catholic Mother. She would love to speak with you one day…although again, I won’t hold my breath that such a meeting would ever occur.
You know, because of my strict Catholic upbringing, it took me a while… but I finally realized that; although you wear the title of Bishop, actually, you are FIRST and FOREMOST a “business man”…the CEO of a “for profit” Organization called “The Diocese of Beaumont.” Again, I mean that with all due respect sir, but let’s just be honest with one another, that’s truly the way it is…isn’t it? I also realize that it is not “safe” or financially expedient for you and The Diocese of Beaumont to “admit” publicly that this molestation actually happened to me. The reason is simply because in doing so, you would run the risk of dealing with any potential backlash should your parishioners begin to ask questions…wouldn’t you? Questions such as; “why didn’t our Diocese do something to stop this PREDATOR when he was here in Beaumont from April of 69 to November of 69? I understand that completely sir.
So for that and other reasons, you and your attorneys must deny that it actually occurred. You have to play my mother and me off as “opportunists” or “gold-diggers.” Right? I mean, that’s what CEO’s do to protect their Company…right? I mean, God forbid you should actually accept your responsibility as Bishop, instead of CEO. Goodness only knows what repercussions that might cause.
Again, this letter is simply from me to you. Let me ask sir; “Do you believe that Jesus Christ would do what YOU are doing in this situation?” Do you believe that He would hide behind his attorneys…duck & dodge… jump through any and every tiny LEAGLE LOOP-HOLE that HE could find in order to escape HIS responsibility to a soul? Do you really? I mean, as a Catholic I was always taught that the local Bishop as well as the Pope were the Vicars of Jesus Christ here on earth? Don’t you consider yourself the Vicar of Christ? Or is that “CEO” title more applicable? Let me ask you this sir; do you believe that one day you will stand before the Righteous Father in Judgment? “Do you even “believe” in the Judgment? Do you believe what the Apostle Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 5:11 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or BAD.
I wonder, what will you say when He asks you about this situation? Who knows…perhaps you don’t really believe you will actually stand before Him one day? That’s between you and The Lord God.
I know this much though, I know that when I stand before Him, while I am sure I will have many things to answer for in my own life, but on THIS one… I won’t even “flinch” should He asks ME about this situation. Perhaps you feel I am being a bit melodramatic? That’s ok, I will take my chances…will you take yours?
Bishop, do you understand what it is like to be sexually molested sir? If you don’t, let me explain it to you. When you’re raped at 15 years of age, things happen inside of your mind and spirit. You’re confused, you’re hurt, you’re all mixed up inside. You don’t know weather or not you should tell someone…or weather you should just say nothing? In fact, you’re really not even certain that it wasn’t YOUR fault? You think to yourself, surely he wouldn’t have asked me to do anything that wasn’t “Godly.” I mean, after all…he’s a priest and MY BEST FRIEND! So, it must be MY fault.
Let me ask you this; do you know what it’s like to have to tell your 80 yr old MOTHER that you were molested by THE SAME MAN that SHE let in the house? This is the same precious Mother who scrimped and saved to pay my tuition of $22 per month so that I could attend Catholic school. Why don’t you give her a call sometime and talk to her to about it? 409-896-5885. Tell her how you and your attorneys are calling us liars and god-diggers. Call her! Can you imagine how SHE feels now? How about having to tell your 18 yr old SON when he hears about it? How about answering “that” question when he looks at his Dad with tears in his eyes when he hears about it. By the way, that’s the same 18 yr old son… who will drop DEAD 7 years later in his bedroom. Do you think that’s something YOU could do? How about your wife of 31 years? Can you imagine how my wife feels?
I wonder too if you have you ever thought about all of the damage that Calhoun did after leaving Beaumont? You “are” aware of all of the little boys that he molested after the Diocese of Beaumont DID NOTHING. You know about those….right? You’re aware of how he almost single-handedly “bankrupted” the Diocese of Yakima…ALL because of the FAILURE of this Diocese of Beaumont to STOP HIM! You do know about that, right?
And lets be honest, the Diocese of Beaumont knew full well that this pathetic individual was a SEXUAL PREDATOR. You know it, and I know it.
Forget about me, how do you feel about all of “those” young boys now dealing with this nightmare in their lives? Of course don’t forget about their PARENTS and their CHILDREN. They have to deal with it as well. All because the Diocese of Beaumont simply “looked the other way”…EXACTLY as YOU are doing RIGHT NOW!…Looking the other way…and hoping I’ll just go away.
Again, that’s what CEO’s do.
Ken Scarborough

The Personal Story of a Hernia Patch Recall Patient

John W. entered St. Mary’s Hospital in June 2004 for what was described as a routine operation to repair a ventral hernia using the large oval Composix Kugel Mesh. A year and a half later, John began experiencing severe abdominal pain with cramping and bowel difficulty. He returned to the surgeon who performed the hernia repair to be told that the Kugel Mesh hernia patch needed to be removed. When John complained of symptoms consistent with bowel obstruction, his surgeon decided to take x-rays of his abdomen. The surgeon concluded that the Kugel Mesh patch needed to be removed. His doctor, a well-respected general surgeon had read reports of problems with the Kugel Mesh patch. The next day, John went in for surgery to have the patch removed. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of his problems. Since that time, John has had to endure the pain and suffering of three additional surgeries due to the complications and bowel perforations caused by the defective Kugel Mesh hernia patch. John had no idea that the patch used to repair the hernia had a defect that caused it to break when placed in the abdominal cavity. In fact, the Kugel Mesh hernia patch was later recalled. The recall was prompted by a problem with the “memory recoil ring” that opens the Bard® Composix® Kugel® Mesh patches. The recoil ring can break under the stress of placement of the large sized products in the intra-abdominal space. This breakage can lead to bowl perforations and/or chronic intestinal fistulae.
John continues to suffer from what should have been a fairly routine procedure. Yet, this 50 year old man lives in constant pain with astronomical medical bills from four follow-up surgeries. His immune system and digestive system are still in a weakened state and he is unable to work and provide for his family. His young children wonder what happened to there once strong dad. His wife worries about the bills and the health and future of her husband whom she now has to care for.
John and his family continue to suffer because a medical device company didn’t disclose what it knew about the problems with its Kugel Mesh patch. Instead of taking responsibility for the defect, it blamed doctors and tried to argue that inexperience and poor surgical procedures resulted in problems with the patch. Yet, the truth is the Kugel Mesh hernia patch is a defective product that is dangerous and hurt many, many unsuspecting patients. Doctors are also the victims in this tragedy. They were never told of the medical device’s defects.

FDA Evaluates 20 Drugs

A new 2007 federal law that requires the federal government disclose its investigations into adverse events regarding drugs. Now for the first time the FDA has released the list of drugs that are under investigation for adverse effects. All of the reports on the list come from the FDA’s early-warning system for drugs already on the market. This Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) collects reports from patients, hospitals, doctors, and drug companies about suspicious problems that might — or might not — be related to a medication.
Just because a drug is on the list doesn’t mean it isn’t safe — or even that it caused the suspected problem. Nobody should stop taking a drug just because it’s on the list, the FDA says.
“If a drug is listed, it means we have begun an analysis to see if there is a safety problem that requires further evaluation,” Gerald Dal Pan, MD, MPH, director of the FDA office of surveillance and epidemiology, said at a news conference.
However, the list is just that-a list and not an exhaustive discussion of the potential problems concerning the drug. The list also doesn’t say anything about the severity of the problem or how widespread it may be. In some instances, the drug listed has already received adverse publicity such as the antipsychotic drug Seroquel. The blood thinner drug Heparin is also on the list. Heparin received quite a bit of adverse attention earlier this year due to contaminaton issues.

Sprint Fidelis Defibrillator Patient-This times it’s a 9 year old

We’re often conditioned to think that those who need implanted pacemakers or need implanted defibrillator leads are those of us who’ve lived a long life and are hoping to prolong that life for a few more years. If something goes awry, well, that person lived a long life. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
What if it involves a kid, a 9 year old? A child isn’t the likeliest candidate for a Sprint Fidelis defibrillator lead or any other type of heart lead for that matter. Yet for his dad and mom, it doesn’t matter. They have a sick child whose life depends on that medical device. What if that child clings to life because of a heart defibrillator lead that doesn’t work. Imagine for a moment that is your child, what lengths would you go to protect the child? What if that child clung to life because of a heart defibrillator lead that didn’t work, how would you feel? That’s exactly what happened to one of my clients. Their precious child had a heart defect that required a defibrillator lead in order to live. It’s no longer a matter of legal arguments, it’s a matter of life and death. And, it’s your child. what would you do? The defibrillator lead, the Sprint Fidelis, doesn’t work, it has defects. In this particular case, the child’s heart had an irregular rhythm that required an electric shock to keep it in a normal rhythm. Yet the Sprint Fidelis cardiac defibrillator lead didn’t always send electric impulses when needed. As we now know, the Sprint Fidelis lead wire broke and therefore short-circuited so the parents took him back to the surgeon who decided to remove the implanted device. But they couldn’t remove it. He was flown to another city where specialists had to perform lengthy and delicate surgery to remove the defective lead replacing it with another medical device. The trauma of seeing their son suffer and cling to life has left both parents shaky. They try to sleep at night but can’t since their thoughts kept racing to what if this defibrillator lead doesn’t work? What if our son needs an electric shock but doesn’t receive it? What if? This is all the result of a medical device company continuing to sell a defective product. The surgeon who implanted the Sprint Fidelis lead didn’t know about the defect. The company, however, did know that the lead was prone to breakage. They just didn’t tell anyone about it. They didn’t want to hurt sales.
That’s often what it’s like practicing consumer justice law. People’s lives are in peril. You share in their pain. You suffer with them and you try to pursue justice.

RFK’s Daughter Probes Catholicism

As the seventh of 11 children, Kerry Kennedy’s Catholic upbringing was a huge influence on her formation. She was afterall the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. The family prayed the Rosary together, attended daily Mass after the assassination of their father. In fact, the 49-year old Kennedy remains a practicing Catholic, teaching religion in her home parish in New York.
However, as she grew older, she began to wrestle with some of the Church’s stances on hot button social issues of the day. The result of that struggle is her new book, “Being Catholic Now”. The book attempts to demonstrate the profound effect that Catholicism plays in those who grew up Catholic as well as the contradictions and tensions of an adult Catholic who is at times at odds with the institutional church. Kerry Kennedy interviews a wide variety of Catholics from Bill O’Reilly to Martin Sheen. Interestingly, Kennedy does not shy away from the priest sex abuse scandal. She even interviews Justice Anne M. Burke who was interim chair of the National Review Board for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for two years. Burke is sharp in her criticism of two leading cardinals-Francis George and Edward Egan. In the interview with Kennedy, Burke states, “started having problems with individual cardinals and bishops who thought we were too aggressive,” and that “bishops got away with concealing crime,” and “just when you think these bishops are getting it, they turn around and do something that in any other enterprise would result in their own dismissal.”
Burke is highly critical of Chicago’s cardinal Francis George. She says he lied to her about an abusive priest, “the cardinal wasn’t honest with me. Perhaps he was not honest with himself.”
She also doesn’t let Egan off lightly, “Cardinal Edward Egan was offended by our insistence for independence,” she says. “I also think he was intimidated by the thoughts of fifty former FBI agents doing our questioning. His animosity reached an absurd level when he publicly uninvited us from attending the Cardinal’s Annual Gala in New York [an Order of Malta dinner].”
Both cardinals have already rejected Burke’s critiques. However, it’s hard to dispute the veracity and integrity of Justice Burke as well as former Governor Frank Keating, especially when the cardinals haven’t had the best track record in the truth telling department.

The Bishop’s Response to the Priest Abuse Scandal

Over the last two decades, I’ve witnessed various responses to the priest abuse crisis by the American bishops. Initially, they flat out denied the crisis and attacked the “Catholic bashers”. From there, I saw the bishops say that they had no idea that such priest would continue to abuse. They didn’t have the psychological data to deal with the crisis. (This in spite of documents that have come to light from the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico stating otherwise.) Then they blamed the lawyers and told the faithful that the lawyers were going to bankrupt the Church and one diocese after another filed bankruptcy. The latest public relations message spun by the bishops is “the crisis is now over. What happened in the past, is the past, we’re ready to move forward.” Throughout all of these public relations permutations, we never heard about concern for the victims and survivors of sexual abuse. The majority of Catholic bishops in this country have never moved away from what they perceive as their first duty: protect the institution at all costs. Even Archbishop Wilton Gregory, whom many considered to be a reformer, has been caught in the web of coverup this past week by an Illinois jury. It’s disheartening to say the least to see that not much has changed.
Even with Pope Benedict’s pastoral visit to the United States earlier this year, the words were nice but talk is cheap. The bishops haven’t budged. It’s hard to know if Benedict’s words were just a “wink and a nod” to the public relations machine. Either the bishops have ignored him and his words or they knew something we didn’t. His words were hollow and nothing changes.
Priest Sex Abuse Advocate

A Familiar Story: The Catholic Church Refuses to Hand Over Documents

The crux of last year’s $660 million settlement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was the church’s willingness to hand over to the public the internal documents concerning the priest abuse scandal within the Archdiocese. For many of the survivors, the most important aspect of the settlement was the revelation of these important documents. Yet, more than a year later, the documents still have not seen the light of day. In spite of the settlement agreement, the church’s lawyer is fighting to have the documents sealed. According to the Associated Press story today, “The priest personnel files in question contain letters, handwritten notes and reports from doctors and psychologists — and the district attorney has said he will inspect them for evidence of crimes once they are public.
When the Diocese of Orange released tens of thousands of pages of similar files in 2005, they showed that two officials who covered up for molester priests years ago remained in top church positions. Another 800 pages that came out in Wisconsin this year showed the church knew of credible molestation reports against a priest but didn’t remove him.”
The Catholic Church will stop at nothing, spare no expense, and impugn the intentions of survivors in order to keep these Church documents out of the public eye. That’s why the public must have access to them. From the documents that other dioceses have released such as Boston and Manchester, they are a treasure trove of criminal behavior, cover-up, duplicity, and bold face lies in order to protect the all important reputation of the Church. This is not a new modus operandi for the Catholic Church. They’ve been doing this for centuries.
Take as an example the Pontifical Secret. If this secret is deliberately divulged, the Church considers it a grave sin. It’s so important to the instituional church that it’s covered in Canon Law, the official law of the church. While the Pontifical Secret pertains to various matters deemed important by the Pope, issues of clerical sexual abuse may fall into this category. In layman’s terms this is tantamount to the Pope demanding secrecy concerning a civil crime!
Another example of such institutional secrecy concerns the oath cardinals take upon their installation. Here’s the text to which they swear:
[name and surname], Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, promise and swear to be faithful henceforth and forever, while I live, to Christ and his Gospel, being constantly obedient to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, and of his canonically elected Successors; to maintain communion with the Catholic Church always, in word and deed; not to reveal to any one what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church; to carry out with great diligence and faithfulness those tasks to which I am called by my service to the Church, in accord with the norms of the law.
So help me Almighty God
I’ve highlighted the relevant parts of the oath for purposes of demonstrating how such an oath can be construed by cardinals to keep secret crimes committed against children. As is obvious, these are strong words from which one can sense the mentality of those in positions of authority regarding their duty to “protect” the church.
Now, that the judge in Los Angeles who was charged with reviewing these church documents has quit, the dissemination of the church documents is in jeopary. The Associated Press story relates, “Under a settlement announced in July 2007, the Los Angeles archdiocese promised to release the priest personnel files to the court, which would then appoint retired state Supreme Court Justice Edward A. Panelli to review each one. Panelli, whose name was written into the settlement agreement as the mediator, would decide which documents could be released and which couldn’t — and none of his rulings could be appealed.
But Panelli suddenly recused himself this summer because he received an unspecified honor from the Roman Catholic church, plaintiff attorney Ray Boucher said. Panelli declined an interview request through his assistant and archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said he didn’t know why Panelli recused himself.”
This is a battle for which we must fight. It’s a battle about justice and truth. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church is on the wrong side of this one.

Piercing the Catholic Church’s Veil of Secrecy

The Catholic Church has managed to survive for more than 2,000 years now. The institution knows a thing or two about self-preservation and defending itself from attacks from within as well as outside the church. Unfortunately, part of that self preservation involves protecting the institution at all costs and I mean at all costs. The church has learned that scandal can be very damaging to its image and may cause the faithful to wander away from the church. This has never been more evident in the recent sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the church the last decade or so. Similar to any great scandal such as Watergate or Iran Contra, the church sex abuse scandal is remarkable for two things: secrecy and cover-up.
In order to preserve the reputation of the institutional church, the clergy, especially the bishops and cardinals, kept secrets and covered their tracks as to how they dealt with sexually wayward priests. They developed a Morse code like language to talk about these priests. They would often be deemed alcoholic or immature. They would be sent away “for further study” or be determined to be “absent on leave”. When the notion of sexual acting out was mentioned, the bishops and cardinals spoke in terms of “particular friendship”.
In my next blog post on this subject, I’ll continue discussing this subject of secrecy and coverup by examining such items as the “Pontifical Secret” and the oath of secrecy each cardinal swears upon receiving the red hat of a cardinal. Then we’ll take a look at how individual bishops have attempted to cover up priest abuse and their efforts at secrecy.

Health Community Debates Benefits of Zetia and Vytorin

The FDA approved Zetia and Vytorin in 2002 as drugs that would lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks. The drugs have been heavily marketed and doctors have prescribed them aggressively ever since they came on the market. Yet the evidence as to their effectiveness is still not clear. In fact, Vytorin failed to clinic trials which were conducted to prove its benefits. Some doctors now believe the drugs shouldn’t be used outside of clinical trials since the evidence against using the drugs is mounting. Adding to these concerns is a potential link to cancer. According to one prominent cardiologist, the FDA set the initial standard for approval too low. “The F.D.A. set the bar too low on the initial approval,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic. “It would have been a lot better if the agency had said, ‘Show us that you do more than lower LDL a little bit, show us evidence of effectiveness.’ ”