Neurosurgeons barred from human research after experimental infections
Two neuroscientists who injected bacteria into the brains of dying patients will no longer be allowed to conduct medical research, according to The Sacramento Bee.
J. Paul Muizelaar and Rudolph J. Schrot, both neurosurgeons at the University of California, Davis, reportedly introduced bacteria into open head wounds of three patients with malignant brain tumours and then withheld antibiotics. Muizelaar and Schrot believed that the infections would prompt the patients’ immune systems to attack the cancer. Two of the patients developed sepsis and all three have since died.
On the day that the third patient died in 2011, an institutional review board learned that Muizelaar and Schrot hoped to infect more patients. The university stopped the work and began an internal investigation. In October 2011, the vice-chancellor of research notified the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of noncompliance, but the agency has not indicated what, if any, disciplinary action it would take. In April this year, Muizelaar was awarded an endowed chair in the department of neurosurgery.
Two bioethicists quoted in the Bee both condemned the procedures. The neurosurgeons counter that they believed that the FDA had given permission, the patients had given consent and their actions were primarily intended to treat. Muizelaar said that he hoped to continue. “If I come down with a glioblastoma, I will demand that it be done on myself,” he told the Bee.