Sunday, August 17, 2008

Did You Know You Were An Experiment?

There are many things wrong with the way we take care of the kids whose parents aren't up to the job. The fact that some foster parents and facilities are doing the job for the money is disquieting enough.

But are we looking closely enough at the treatment they're getting, as well? It's sad to find out some of them may be into profits for treatment as well. The profits come from their research, and the kids they're treating are not voluntary patients, though. Free guinea pigs wasn't the role that these foster kids were put into any program to play under any concept of the fostering program.

One in three Texas foster children has been diagnosed with mental illness and prescribed mind-altering drugs, including some that the federal government has not approved for juveniles, state records show.

Many of these drugs are prescribed by doctors who have a financial stake in pharmaceutical companies' success, a Dallas Morning News investigation has found. Dozens of physicians who treat children in state custody supplement their salaries with tens of thousands of dollars in consulting and speakers' fees, and they use drug company grants to fund their research projects.

Accepting this money is not illegal, nor is it frowned upon in most medical circles. Many of the state's leading medical experts receive income or grants from drug companies, money that has funded groundbreaking scientific advances. And financial ties between doctors and pharmaceutical firms are frequently self-reported by physicians on their Web sites, conference programs and journal articles.

But while the psychiatric drugs given to foster children cost millions of taxpayer dollars a year, it's hard to know how much the doctors prescribing them are making from pharmaceutical companies. Texas, like most states, does not require disclosure.

The most prominent researchers can easily make $15,000 a year from each drug company they consult for, plus fees for speaking engagements that top $1,500 an event, according to financial disclosure forms some researchers are required to file because they work for state universities. Research grants often exceed $100,000, these records show.

Kids have enough to deal with, without this cynical misuse of programs supposed to help them cope.

Does the hippocratic oath have an amendment? I remember the "First, do no harm" part, and I haven't seen anything that would warn users of the medical system that it may be dangerous to your health.

Kids need protection, not misuse, by the agencies empowered and paid to care for them. The medical community does not need fostering under the guise of kids' benefits.

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