Arizona

Arizona Indian tribe wins genetic piracy case against university scientists

Thursday, September 09, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: genetic piracy, Arizona, health news

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(NaturalNews) Arizona State University (ASU) has agreed to pay $700,000 to settle a lawsuit by an indigenous tribe claiming that the university misused its members' genetic material.

The settlement "is far more than dismissing a lawsuit," said Bernadine Jones, chair of Arizona's Havasupai tribe. "The settlement is the restoration of hope for my people, and the beginning of nation building for my tribe."

Back in the 1990s, more than 200 members of the 650-person Havasupai tribe donated blood samples to the university to aid in research for a diabetes cure. The research had been requested by a tribal member who had suffered from severe complications of the disease, including kidney failure and amputation of a leg. ASU used the blood to conduct DNA analysis, then concluded that high rates of diabetes among the Havasupai were unrelated to their genetics.

In 2003, tribal members learned that the university had gone on to reuse the blood samples, without consent, to research schizophrenia and inbreeding. It was also used to study scientific theories of Havasupai origins that contradict the tribe's traditions. Tribal members objected to the university, but were dissatisfied with the response they received. The tribe filed a lawsuit soon after asking for $50 million in damages. Individual tribal members later filed their own lawsuits seeking a total of $10 million.

In addition to paying $700,000 to the 41 plaintiffs, ASU has agreed to return all 200 blood samples and use its influence to help the tribe find third-party funding for a new health clinic and high school.

The returned blood samples will be buried in a sacred ceremony. In some cases, they will be interred with the remains of the people whose bodies they came from.

"Their spirits will no longer be locked in a cooler," plaintiff and tribal council member Carletta Tilousi said. "We are going to take them back down to Supai Canyon so they can rest in peace."

Sources for this story include: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/... http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/weekinrevi....

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