Six more families sue 'Hutch'
Seattle Times staff reporter
Six more families have sued the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center over deaths in a leukemia experiment in the 1980s.
The Hutchinson center already faces two lawsuits from six other families, including one suit filed by relatives of five people who died in the leukemia experiment and one suit filed by the widower of a woman who died in a breast-cancer experiment. The latter case is set for trial Sept. 16.
The initial suits were filed shortly after publication last March of a Seattle Times investigative series, "Uninformed Consent: What patients at 'The Hutch' weren't told about the experiments in which they died."
The latest suit was filed in King County Superior Court on Friday, shortly before the one-year anniversary of the newspaper articles. An attorney for the plaintiffs, Tom Dreiling, said he wanted to avoid a statute-of-limitations claim that the families could not sue more than one year after they learned they might have grounds for legal action.
The suit alleges failures in the areas of patient consent, product liability, consumer protection and battery. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
Hutchinson-center spokeswoman Susan Edmonds said, "We are confident that the evidence in this follow-on suit, as in the earlier lawsuit, will show that the center and its physicians acted in the best interest of their patients."
The center has not yet been served with the new lawsuit. The center has denied any misconduct and says it gives all patients adequate information on clinical trials to obtain their fully informed consent.
Dreiling and David Breskin of Short Cressman & Burgess in Seattle represent all of the plaintiffs in the three suits. The first cases originally were filed in Kitsap County Superior Court and were moved later to federal court. The attorneys said the newly filed case also might be moved to federal court at a later date.
The plaintiffs in that suit are:
• Marian Dagosto of Chicago, a researcher and teacher at the Northwestern University School of Medicine, widow of Paul Mahler, a City University of New York anthropology chairman.
• Malathi Sarma of Sandy, Utah, widow of Mohan Sarma, a laboratory manager.
• Cathy Yingling of Butler, Pa., widow of insurance agent David Yingling.
• Diane Fender of California, widow of George Fender.
• Paula Carrico of Loudon, Tenn., widow of dentist Norman Carrico.
• Robert and Carol Russell of California, parents of Lynne Russell, who was 15 when she died. The others were over 30.
The deaths occurred from 1983 to 1985. Yingling and Russell died after graft failure; the others died after their cancers returned despite intense chemotherapy, radiation and bone-marrow transplants.
The leukemia experiment sought to prevent a secondary condition called graft-vs.-host disease. It was abandoned after learning it had led to high levels of graft failure and relapse.
At least 80 of 82 people who enrolled in the experiment have died. Some of them stood a good chance of a full cure with the standard treatment.
Named as defendants were the Hutchinson center, its former president, Dr. Robert Day, and researchers Dr. John Hansen, Dr. Paul Martin and Dr. E. Donnall Thomas.
The suit says they "knew or should have known that results from prior human research ... had shown no improvement in survival."
The suit also says the Hutchinson center's internal-review board "was not fully informed of the risks, benefits, results, and financial conflicts of interest."
Information in this article, originally published March 15 was corrected March 16. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a defendant in lawsuits filed over a leukemia experiment in the 1980s. An earlier version of this article incorrectly called the center a plaintiff in one reference.