Two lawsuits seeking $75 million from Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Stanford University over blood samples taken from members of the Havasupai Tribe have been transferred to federal court.
The complaints, filed earlier this year in Coconino County Superior Court, are now under the jurisdiction of Judge Frederick J. Martone of the U.S. District Court for Arizona. Martone has set the first trial conference for March 4, 2005.
The tribe and 52 individual tribal members are alleging nearly 400 blood samples drawn from 1990 to 1994 under the pretext of diabetes research were destroyed, lost or used in 15 studies of schizophrenia, inbreeding and population migration without the donors’ consent.
The migration studies were offensive to the tribe. The Havasupai trace their origins to the Grand Canyon, while the studies looked at early migration patterns from Asia to North America.
In 1992, researchers also collected 36 handprints, purportedly for the diabetes study, when the samples were for a project on inbreeding, the complaints claim.
The suits allege the defendants knew or should have known the blood samples were being drawn for nondiabetes purposes.
The suits also name more than 100 other defendants, including the researchers who took the samples. They are ASU professors John Martin and Therese Ann Markow, and Daniel Benyshek, an ASU graduate student at the time.
Also named are the Arizona Board of Regents, the Stanford University Board of Regents, the University of Arizona Committee on Ethics and Research, the ASU Institutional Review Board, and Stanford’s Administrative Panel for Human Subjects in Medical Research.
The complaints allege that the three universities allowed professors to abuse their authority and bypass laws protecting the tribe by using information from the samples.
Lawyers for the defendants have denied the allegations.