Ketamine Study, Performed Without Patient Consent, Raises Alarms

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Monday, June 25, 2018

An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune describes concerns over a program in which paramedics from Hennepin Healthcare administer the sedative ketamine when responding to reports of extremely aggressive or agitated people. The newspaper obtained a draft report that examined the protocol, which was apparently driven by a study "which began last August, requires no consent from patients whose data can be used for research, but gives the subject the option to opt out afterward." The report alleges that in some cases, police encouraged or directed use of the drug. Representatives of Hennepin Healthcare explain that ketamine and and other sedatives "can be a lifesaving tool when paramedics encounter people showing signs of 'excited delirium,' a condition when severe agitation can lead to death." However, "a recent paper published by the hospital [noted that] 57 percent of study patients given ketamine required intubation — inserting a tube in the throat to help deliver oxygen." According to Carl Elliott, who is on the faculty of the Center for Bioethics, a Consortium member, “If I were asked to consent to this study in advance, I would refuse. I would never want to be in this study. And yet they’re describing it to people like it’s so uncontroversial that they can enroll them without even asking them.”