A federal jury has awarded $1.37 million in damages to a former Pfizer scientist who claimed she was sickened by a genetically engineered virus at a company laboratory and then fired for raising safety concerns.
The jury in the United States District Court in Hartford did not actually address whether the virus had caused the paralyzing illness from which the scientist, Becky McClain, still suffers. The judge had dismissed that claim before the trial, saying that Ms. McClain did not have adequate evidence and that it was a matter for worker’s compensation.
But the jury ruled that Pfizer had violated laws protecting free speech and whistle-blowers by retaliating against Ms. McClain, who worked for the company from 1996 through 2005.Ms. McClain, for example, claimed she encountered many difficulties in her attempts to learn the genetic content of the virus she suspected had infected her because it was protected as a trade secret.
Jeremy Gruber, president of the Council for Responsible Genetics, an advocacy group urging discussion of the ethical implications of biotechnology, applauded the award.
“I personally believe that Becky McClain is really the canary in the coal mine,” he said. Regulations “have not kept pace with the explosion of research.”“New biological materials, nanomaterials, there are many things where we don’t have adequate information, and we think workers need to have protection,”
It isn't just workers that need protection? It will be all of us.
But, who will do it? The government?
Don't count on it.