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Stanford University Tests Drugs on Imprisoned Juveniles

During 1997 researchers from Stanford University were allowed to conduct drug trials on 61 teenagers imprisoned at the California Youth Facility (CYA) in Stockton. According to the Associated Press, state officials have indicated that those tests may have violated a state law banning medical research on prisoners.

The juveniles, aged 14 to 18, were given varying dosages of Depakote, a prescription drug used to control epileptic seizures, to determine if the drug made them "less aggressive." According to Stanford University officials, the teens "volunteered" for the experiments and officials mailed consent forms to their parents. In those cases where the parents didn't respond, the CYA gave consent.

But CYA officials claim the tests were conducted without the knowledge or approval of the CYA director or his legal office. Lisa Beutler, under secretary of the CYA said, "The [approval] process fell down here." She added, though, that the idea "was not necessarily bad" because researchers might have uncovered a useful drug to reduce violent tendencies.

Gov. Gray Davis has asked the attorney general and the state's inspector general to investigate the drug experiments. And CYA officials say they are taking steps to insure that similar tests won't happen again. [Acres of Skin contains a detailed history of prisoner expermentation in the U.S. See p.31 to order.]

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