University of Wisconsin–Madison

Pilar Ossorio part of team in Havasupai case brought against Arizona State University

Associate Professor Pilar Ossorio, acting on behalf of the Havasupai Indian Tribe, was a part of the legal team that recently settled with Arizona State University regarding the use of Havasupai DNA for research.

The New York Times reported that starting in 1990 the Havasupai had given samples of their DNA to university researchers in an effort to determine a genetic key to the tribe's high rate of diabetes. They then later discovered that their blood samples were being used to study many other things, "...including mental illness and theories of the tribe's geographical origins that contradict their traditional stories."

Tribal members sued the University for the research that had been done using their DNA without their consent. The case carried on for seven years and on April 20 a settlement was finally reached in which the Arizona State University agreed to pay $700,000 to 41 of the tribe's members, return the blood samples and offer other forms of assistance to the tribe.

Ossorio had this to say in an e-mail: "[T]he real kudos go to the Havasupai tribe who collectively, and in some cases individually, decided to go forward with the cases despite knowing that winning was a long shot, that even if they 'won' they might lose [money], and that this suit might be a very painful experience for some of them."

Submitted by Erin Syth on October 28, 2016

This article appears in the categories: In the Media

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