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Hospital Ordered To Tighten Procedures After Cocaine-Test Experiment

October 5, 1994

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ A hospital where dozens of pregnant cocaine users were turned in to the police was ordered to tighten procedures to make sure patients don’t become unwitting experimental subjects.

The National Institutes of Health said Tuesday that it will closely review the Medical University of South Carolina’s policies but won’t suspend the university hospital’s $32 million in federal research money.

The hospital, which serves the poor, had been testing selected pregnant women for cocaine. Those who tested positive and refused to enter drug treatment faced criminal charges.

The women were not notified that the program would be the subject of a 1990 article in the Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association.

The university dropped the program at the end of August after the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York filed a $3 million lawsuit charging it unconstitutionally targeted blacks and broke doctor-patient confidences.

Dr. J. Thomas Puglisi of NIH’s Division of Human Subject Protections said the journal article should have been cleared by the university Institutional Review Board.

″This noncompliance raises serious concerns about the adequacy of MUSC’s institutional system of protections for human subjects,″ he wrote to the school.

The review board did finally look at the program this year and concluded it was a protocol for handling addicted patients, not an experiment on humans, said Dr. Ed Conradi, the board chairman.

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