Lawsuit accuses former Kansas professor of using disabled patients in sex research

Lawsuit accuses former Kansas professor of using disabled patients in sex research
© Greg Nash

A former University of Kansas (KU) assistant professor used more than 200 patients with intellectual disabilities in sex studies at a state-run Iowa facility, a lawsuit filed on behalf of several former employees at the facility alleges.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, accuses Jerry Rea of using patients at Glenwood Resource Center as “the subjects or ‘guinea pigs’ in research experiments,” the Kansas City Star reported.

Rea, who was terminated from Glenwood in December, allegedly collaborated with facility administrators to dismantle supervisory mechanisms designed by the Justice Department to protect patients’ civil rights, the lawsuit claims.

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The complaint was filed on behalf of former employees, including a nurse practitioner, the facility’s former director of quality management, a doctor who once worked there and an employee who also served as guardian for two Glenwood patients.

The suit also names Glenwood and the state Department of Human Services, which runs the facility, and alleges workers who attempted to report the wrongdoing were retaliated against or fired. Other plaintiffs named in the suit include: Jerry R. Foxhaven, former director of the department; Mohammad Rehman, Glenwood’s medical director; and Richard Shults, former director of the department’s Division of Mental Health and Disability.

The lawsuit follows a Justice Department investigation launched in December into allegations of experiments conducted on non-consenting patients.

Cara Sloan, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told the newspaper that the department began an internal review of the state hospital’s history of sexual research upon becoming aware of the Justice Department investigation.

Rea, before he was hired as acting superintendent at Glenwood in September 2017, was an assistant research professor at KU, where he researched deviant sexual behavior.

The review thus far “suggests proper ethics and approved protocols were in place based on very robust university-affiliated research policies backed by” KU and Wichita State University, she told the newspaper, adding that voluntary participants and legal guardians gave proper consent.

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Human Services for comment.