Universities, institute seek revisiting of lead ruling

Md. appeals court placed restrictions on medical research with children

September 18, 2001|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The Johns Hopkins University, Kennedy Krieger Institute and University of Maryland filed court briefs yesterday asking the state's highest court to reconsider an Aug. 16 ruling that imposed restrictions on medical research involving children.

The universities warned that the Maryland Court of Appeals ban on enrolling minors in nontherapeutic studies that involve risk to the subjects would "cripple the pursuit of critical medical and public health research," according to a statement released by the parties.

In its ruling last month, the court allowed trials to proceed in lawsuits filed by two families against the Kennedy Krieger Institute. They claimed that their children, Ericka Grimes and Myron Higgins, became poisoned with lead during a 1993-1994 study into the effectiveness of varying levels of partial lead removal from older Baltimore rowhouses.

The courts compared the study to the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis studies from 1932 to 1972, in which researchers deliberately withheld medical treatment from poor black men so they could watch the progress of the disease.

"There has been much misunderstanding, misinformation and distortion surrounding this study," said Dr. Gary Goldstein, president of Kennedy Krieger. "Every child who participated in this project was given regular blood tests and checkups. Every home visit was accompanied by cleanup and education. Visible lead paint was removed in every house."

The result was that all of the 108 children in the study lived in homes that had less lead dust than they would have had if the families had not enrolled in the study, Goldstein said.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have argued that Kennedy Krieger used the children as guinea pigs in a study of cheap solutions to the lead paint problem, enticing landlords to rent homes to families with young children while knowing the homes were not free of hazards.

The universities were joined in their brief by the Association of American Universities and Association of American Medical Colleges.

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