Halt Invasive Research on Kids

The Oregonian 11/12/02

An intrusive drug-testing study in 13 Oregon school districts has been suspended for violating federal standards of research on human subjects. Suspension isn't enough.

The study should be canceled, and Oregon students deserve an apology.

The grand experiment started two years ago when Dr. Linn Goldberg of Oregon Health & Science University won a three-year, $3.6 million grant to determine whether random urine testing deters drug and alcohol use among high school athletes. Students in the "control" schools just filled out the questionnaire, while students in the "experimental" schools were forced to make a difficult choice:

If you want to play sports, be a good little guinea pig and urinate on demand for the authorities. Otherwise, get thrown off the team and publicly criticized by others -- including Goldberg -- for wrecking the study.

A few brave families dissented and filed a class-action lawsuit in June against OHSU and the school districts. As The Oregonian's correspondent Alice Tallmadge reported last week, a federal investigation by the Office for Human Research Protections has vindicated these families. Federal investigators told OHSU President Peter Kohler in an Oct. 24 letter that the study had to be suspended until problems involving possible coercion, inadequate training, improper incentives and other issues were resolved.

Random drug testing in school may be considered constitutional under limited circumstances, but forcing people to be subjects in federally funded research is unethical.

Forcing children to act like laboratory rats to play sports in public schools is unconscionable.

This research project should be axed.