Arizona Tribe’s Suit Over Research Revived

PHOENIX

An Arizona appeals court panel ruled that the Havasupai American Indian tribe can proceed with a lawsuit that claims university researchers misused blood samples taken from tribal members.

Overturning a judge’s 2007 dismissal of the case, a split Arizona Court of Appeals panel said last month that Havasupai Native Americans and other plaintiffs had provided enough information to go to trial or at least enough to go forward in trial court pending further proceedings.

The northern Arizona tribe, whose isolated village lies deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon, claims Arizona State University and University of Arizona researchers misused blood samples taken from more than 200 tribal members for diabetes research in the 1990s by also using it for research into schizophrenia, inbreeding and ancient population migration.

The tribe claims the additional research was conducted without its permission and constituted an invasion of privacy. As a result, the tribe says, some members now fear seeking medical attention.

Attorneys for the university system and individual researchers have argued that tribal members supplied the blood samples voluntarily and that there is legitimate public interest in data that can advance disease research.

 

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