2 Univ. of Minnesota psychiatric research doctors may have broken privacy law
The two doctors who've been at the center of the University of Minnesota psychiatric research scandal are now the focus of a new investigation.
The Fox 9 Investigators have learned the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice is looking to see if Charles Schulz and Stephen Olson recently broke a state privacy law. Specifically, the Board is investigating what role the doctors played in the posting of "confidential and privileged" documents to a University of Minnesota website for anyone to see.
The records in question are private complaints made against the doctors by Mary Weiss back in 2008. She's the mother of Dan Markingson, a mentally ill man who committed suicide while enrolled in a drug trial run by Schulz and Olson. Weiss blames the doctors for Dan's death, accusing them of ignoring her pleas to remove him from their study because she felt he was getting sicker and in danger of killing himself.
"That's how I feel, like they killed him," said Weiss.
The Medical Board cleared both doctors of any wrong doing in Markingson's death, but earlier this year, as the controversy surrounding the case heated up again, the University of Minnesota posted Weiss' complaints on a website. A U spokesperson says it was an effort to demonstrate transparency. Those documents showed personal information about Weiss, including her home address and unlisted phone number.
Mike Howard, a close friend and caretaker for Weiss since she suffered a stroke, said after the U posted her complaints online, someone left nasty messages on her phone, accusing her of harassing the doctors.
"These came up as anonymous, every one of them had been blocked by the caller," said Howard. "What kind of person would do that? It's incredibly harmful, it's hurtful, it's spiteful."
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The U removed the documents from the website as soon as Howard complained about the crank calls, but now, the state medical board wants to know why Olson and Schulz even shared what's supposed to be confidential and privileged information about a patient.
Earlier this year, a review from the Legislative Auditor which was triggered by a Fox 9 Investigation found serious ethical issues and numerous conflicts of interests in the Markingson death.
Dr. Schulz has since resigned as head of the Psychiatry Department, but he and Olson have not been disciplined by the University.
"At this point we don't have anything that's actionable for discipline as far as I know," said U of M President Eric Kaler.
However, the current Medical Board investigation could change things. Under Minnesota law, revealing privileged communication about a patient may be grounds for disciplinary action. That could be anything from a reprimand to revocation of their medical license. Neither Schulz nor Olson would comment on the case.