Arizona lawsuit over misuse of Havasupai blood samples dismissed 5-4-07

TUCSON, Arizona (AP) - A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and researchers claiming they misused blood samples from Havasupai Indian tribal members.

However, tribal officials said they plan to refile the suit and take the case to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Carletta Tilousi, a plaintiff and Havasupai tribal councilwoman, said the tribe's leaders maintain ASU researchers used blood samples authorized only for the study of diabetes instead for research into schizophrenia, inbreeding and migratory patterns.

Tilousi, 37, said the blood samples and other data collected by two ASU researchers in the early 1990s were distributed to other researchers, including some outside the state university system and possibly to pharmaceutical companies.

Tilousi says neither she nor other members of the tribe received results of any work carried out using the collected blood samples.

When she was an ASU student, Tilousi said she learned of a dissertation presentation based on the Havasupai blood samples, but having nothing to do with diabetes research.

Tilousi said use of the samples for research into the Havasupai's origins - the so-called Bering Strait Theory of migration which says American Indians long ago came across a land bridge from Asia - “goes against our religion and our identity.”

Among those named in the suit is former ASU research scientist Therese Markow, now a UA Regents Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Markow declined comment on the case to the Arizona Daily Star newspaper on Thursday.

The tribe was asking for US$50 million (euro36.7 million) in compensation. Earlier this week, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge dismissed the tribe's case because of a legal technicality.

Tilousi said a second case, by individual members of the tribe seeking damages for alleged misuse of their samples, is awaiting trial.