Federal Watchdog Blasts San Diego VA’s Unethical Research on Vets

by on February 16, 2021 · 0 comments

in Health, San Diego, Veterans

by Jill Castellano / inewscource / February 12, 2021

For the second time, a federal watchdog agency found that the Department of Veterans Affairs’ investigation into unethical liver research performed on San Diego veterans was “not reasonable.”

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel published new reports on Tuesday, Feb. 8, revealing more details about the mistakes and violations that occurred during the research and its dissatisfaction with the VA’s investigation into what happened. inewsource broke the story about the unethical study in 2018 as the first article in its Risky Research series.

The study at the San Diego VA was part of a $6 million international project to find new therapies for people with alcoholic hepatitis. Researchers around the world were supposed to collect these patients’ leftover liver tissue after they received biopsies and look for patterns.

But that’s not what happened in San Diego.

In 2016, two whistleblowers filed complaints with the special counsel’s office, claiming researchers at the La Jolla hospital had persuaded veterans to undergo medically unnecessary biopsies and then used the samples for research purposes without telling the patients. The whistleblowers, who were both San Diego VA employees at the time, said it put seriously ill subjects at an unnecessary risk for bleeding and other complications.

VA investigators from Washington, D.C., flew to San Diego in 2017 to look into the concerns, and found violations of policies and procedures. But the special counsel’s office declared the VA’s work “unreasonable” for failing to address most of the whistleblowers’ claims.

New documents reveal what the VA team found when it revisited the La Jolla hospital in 2019 and re-interviewed employees involved in the research. This time, much more serious wrongdoing was uncovered.

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