We believe we are a society that places a high value on human life. But our institutions are not structured that way. Quite the opposite. If Harran had committed or countenanced scientific fraud, he would have been asked to resign, not made a AAAS Fellow. In other words, the integrity of research ranks higher than the life of a researcher.
The other recent example is Don Blankenship, who last week was convicted of conspiring to violate mine safety and health regulations, an act which led directly to the deaths of 29 human beings. He was acquitted on two other charges -- lying to federal investigators and securities fraud. My problem is not with the verdicts; I assume the jury did its best. But the act which led to 29 deaths is punishable by a maximum of one year in prison; the charge of lying to federal investigators is punishable by five years; securities fraud, 30 years.
Try telling those 29 families, or the family of Sheri Sangji, how much our society values human life.
Michael J. Wright
Director of Health, Safety and Environment
See us on the web at www.usw.org
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**med.cornell.edu] On Behalf Of Ralph Stuart
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2015 7:39 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] [New post] UCLA professor Patrick Harran elected as a AAAS fellow
>was Dr. Harran following the teaching, enforcing and compliance standards being followed at the time?
The legal answer to this question, as agreed to in the settlement in this specific case, was ‰??no‰??. One of the challenges in addressing this issue in the broader context is illustrated in a presentation by the Chair of the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety in 1964. He said:
"Legal requirements also enter into the question of safety in research, but will not be dealt with in detail in this presentation, since they involve professional judgments outside the competence of our committee. Certainly if humanitarian and ethical requirements are met, there are not likely to be any issues that will require legal action."
The social context that enabled this statement changed in the 1970‰??s with the advent of OSHA and EPA, but it‰??s not clear to me that chemical education has recognized this shift.
> >I find it hard to believe that Sangji was unaware of the physical properties of what she was working with, from either Dr. Harran, the classroom, her education level or a simple MSDS.
> >But, what I can hypothesize is that she was ‰??willing to accept the hazards‰?? thinking that, based upon her understanding/level of training of those hazards, she could work with them safely.
Legally, employees are not allowed to accept such hazards; it‰??s the employer‰??s responsibility to recognize and manage them. However, based on my personal experience as a lab tech and having trained many other professional lab techs and students at all levels, I‰??m not clear where this hypothesis comes from. I have had many graduate students tell me that they are unaware that ethanol is flammable, either verbally or through their actions.
Ralph Stuart, CIH
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