College of Pittsburgh is accused of “reducing the cone of silence” with a brand new fetal tissue probe
The University of Pittsburgh faces a sharp backlash after announcing that a DC-based law firm will conduct an alleged “independent” investigation into its fetal tissue practices.
The investigation was announced after several doctors told Fox News that Pitt’s previous statements suggested the possibility that organs were removed from living fetuses. Last week, nearly 100 federal lawmakers also sent the Biden administration a letter indicating that Pitt’s federally funded research may have used tissue obtained from illegal abortions. Pitt has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, claiming it complies with applicable federal and state laws – something that his investigators are supposed to investigate.
But the weeks after Pitt’s announcement have raised a number of questions about transparency, conflicts of interest, and whether the scope of the investigation is sufficient to rid the university of wrongdoing.
Dr. Tara Sander Lee of the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) Against Abortion told Fox News that Pitt’s investigation is insufficient.
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“If this were truly a transparent and timely investigation, the University of Pittsburgh would hire recognized, ethical scientists to review their research, such as the federal ethics advisory board on human fetal tissue that President Biden recently disbanded.” said Lee, who is a Senior Fellow and Director of Life Sciences at CLI.
“They would make the investigation public and publish the results soon, not 18 months. Instead, they hired a law firm in DC to break the silence.”
Questions about transparency and effectiveness
In his statements to Fox News, Pitt declined to say whether his investigation will include his medical center (UPMC) – which raises additional questions about his transparency claims.
Instead, the university reiterated its claim that UPMC is a separate entity. However, UPMC has received a lot of interest as it performs abortions and houses sites for the university’s human tissue bank – the same one that is being examined as part of a federally funded fetal body harvesting project.
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Pitt also claimed he was not involved in medical proceedings, which begs the question of whether the most debated part of this controversy – abortion proceedings – is being investigated at all.
Paul Supowitz, Vice Chancellor, Bureau of Community and Government Relations, wrote in a letter to the Pennsylvania Federal Assembly in May that Pitt’s Tissue Bank, also known as the Pitt Biospecimen Core, “receives all fetal tissues from UPMC Magee-Womens”. Hospital.”
Both the letter from Congress and the doctors’ testimony to Fox News refer specifically to whether procedures were conducted illegally. Although Pitt has stated that it will not participate in trials, both his federal motion and his own spokesperson have described aspects of tissue extraction (e.g., ischemic period).
The impact of an investigation could be significant because Pitt has been constantly reviewing his research on fetal tissue. Earlier this year, the state legislature held a hearing discussing a study in which researchers transplanted fetal scalps onto rodents. This study included Pitt researchers and samples from the university’s tissue bank.
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This study was also supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) led by top coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci is headed. While it is not known exactly how much federal money was spent on this project, it was funded by two large grants – one $ 1,498,642 and one $ 430,270.
Cheryl Allen, a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge, previously called for an investigation but recently questioned the effectiveness of the recently announced investigation.
“How impartial and thorough this investigation will be can only be imagined,” she said in a statement to Fox News.
“My concern is exactly what information will be shared with Pitt alumni and Pennsylvania taxpayers. Many questions remain unanswered. As a Pitt alumnus, I worry that my alma mater is becoming a national center for educating students in controversial fetal experimentation with employees. ” employed by Planned Parenthood – the largest abortion company in the country. “
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Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania (PPWP) did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
It remains to be seen how much information lawmakers and the public will receive from investigators at the law firm Hyman, Phelps & McNamara (HPM). Pitt and Rep. Natalie Mihalek, the Republican official who helped announce the investigation, have given mixed descriptions of who will have access to the results.
Announcing HPM’s investigation, Mihalek said that “a full report will be provided when it is closed”.
“As a member of the General Assembly with responsibility to taxpayers and also as the University’s Commonwealth Trustee, it is important that these questions are answered in this context,” she said.
Pitt, on the other hand, told Fox News that the investigators “would inform senior management of the university of their findings.” Mihalek did not respond to Fox News’ question about the level of transparency. Pitt declined to comment further.
“Significantly, the University of Pittsburgh believes that hiring a law firm is somehow seen as an ‘independent’ review of their barbaric experiments with aborted baby body parts,” said David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress.
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He added, “It is unclear whether the results will be made public … Anyone wanting a real investigation should look at the document inquiries made by nearly 100 congressional officials last week about Pitt’s aborted baby experiments and whether or not Pitt really was advocating transparency and accountability, “it will release these documents immediately.”
In a statement to Fox News, Pitt spokesman Chuck Finder said, “Pitt has engaged a neutral third party – Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, PC – to review its processes and guidelines for conducting fetal tissue research. The Washington, DC-based company is highly regarded for its extensive experience at the intersection of healthcare, research and regulatory law. “
“Pitt has taken this proactive step to ensure it continues to be a scientific, legal, and ethical leader in the practice and advancement of life-saving research.”
Potential Conflicts of Interest
The investigation was announced on September 9 by Mihalek, a Pitt graduated Republican lawmaker who serves on the university’s board of trustees.
Another Pitt alum, Michael Heesters, allegedly participated in the investigation at Pitt’s HPM law firm. Ryan Navarro, a former therapist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), claims that when he raised a concern with the company, he spoke to Heesters, who graduated from the university’s pharmacy school in 2004.
Navarro found this worrying enough to inform the President of the Board of Trustees, Thomas E. Richards, and ask the university to hire another company to conduct the investigation. Navarro said in his letter that Heesters had “a legitimate interest in protecting the integrity of the university”.
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Heesters did not respond to a prior request for comment on possible conflicts. Mihalek, who also graduated in 2004, did not answer a question about her own conflict potential. But Anne Walsh, the other HPM attorney who allegedly spoke to Navarro, previously told Fox News that the firm would not comment on the investigation.
“Our company has been hired by the University of Pittsburgh to conduct an independent review of its policies and practices regarding fetal tissue research,” she said in an email to Fox News. “In order to ensure the integrity of the ongoing review, we will not make any comments. Further inquiries should be directed to the university.”
The university has since rejected Navarro’s concerns about Heesters. In a statement to Fox News, college spokesman Chuck Finder said, “It is completely unfounded to suggest that there is a conflict of interest because an attorney working on this review graduated from the Pitt School of Pharmacy nearly two decades ago. “
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He added, “There is no canon of ethics or conflict of interest principle to support this notion and we totally oppose it.”
Dr. Ronna Jurow, a gynecologist who calls herself “Pro-Choice”, disagreed. She told Fox News that Heesters, but not necessarily the law firm, should pull out. Jurow is a longtime abortion provider who previously led the University of Southern California’s Ryan Residency program.
Pitt also hosted a Ryan program where participants improved abortion techniques and participated in other activities while working at UPMC facilities and a Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania (PPWP) clinic. As Fox News noted, the university has several documented connections with its medical center and PPWP that have raised concerns.
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For example, Navarro claims he got both the university and HPM through Dr. Beatrice Chen, who is the medical director of PPWP and holds leadership positions at both the university and the UPMC. One of these positions is on the university’s Institutional Review Board, which reviews Pitt’s research projects for ethical integrity.
Pitt previously told Fox News that “[t]To ensure that these activities do not create a conflict of interest or effort, the university has a robust process in place that requires disclosure of the faculty’s external obligations for review. Faculties employed by both Pitt and UPMC are subject to conflict reviews by both institutions.