Controversial asthma study generates more questions

There are more questions than answers. That sums up the feelings of American Peter Heimlich, following official information from the Ministry of Health here that it had found no evidence of a controversial asthma study conducted here years ago by his father Henry Heimlich of the Heimlich Manoeuvre fame.

The younger Heimlich told Barbados TODAY that while he was “very pleased” to receive correspondence from Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Tennyson Springer last month, there were still a number of unanswered questions.

In his July 10 letter Springer said: “The delay in responding to your correspondence of February 12, 2013 and addressed to the Hon. Donville Inniss is regretted.

Minister Inniss is no longer with the Ministry of Health. Despite the changes, I wish to acknowledged receipt of your correspondence and inform you that the matter is being investigated.

“So far, there has been no institutional memory or documentation of this research. However, the Ministry of Health will continue to probe into this alleged project. You can be assured that there will be no hesitation to contact you if information becomes available,” he added.

Asked what his next move would be, having received Springer’s letter, he said: “Was the study approved by the Ministry of Health’s Ethics Board? Did the study have appropriate Institutional Review Board oversight? To my knowledge, those questions have yet to be answered and its unclear why the hospital failed to provide that information to me. Once I know those answers, I’ll be able to better respond to your question.”

He said that “it was interesting to learn from Mr. Springer that so far the Ministry of Health has been unable to locate any documentation for the study”.

He noted that correspondence between his father and medical officials purportedly involved in the study said “approval by the Ministry of Health ethics board was required in order to conduct the study”.

“Further, an August 25, 2003 grant application for $5,800 to fund the study was submitted to the Rotary Club of Cincinnati. That application … states that the project “has ethics committee approval and is about to be underway at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados,” he added.

Heimlich said he would await further word from health authorities here. (SC)

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