The St Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that various colleagues and even the spokesperson for Washington University School of Medicine are circling the wagons and defending Dr Timothy R. Kuklo, an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery. Dr Kuklo had an article retracted after publication due to falsification of research evidence on the efficacy of Infuse in lower-limb restoration and claiming falsely joint authorship with other researchers. Dr. Kuklo faked the signatures of four other researchers in claiming it was a medical-research team effort.
Spokeswoman Joni Westerhouse, according to the Post-Dispatch, stated that Dr Kuklo’s research on the Medtronic-corporation product was conducted before he became an associate professor in August 2006. However facts are facts: The article was submitted for publication in October 2007. The article was accepted for publication in April 2008. The article was published in August 2008 in the London-based The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery some two years AFTER his appointment in the Washington University School of Medicine.
The Hippocratic Oath:
The fact that the research on Iraq War soldiers took place at Walter Reed Army Medical Center prior to his arrival on the St. Louis campus is immaterial. The submission of the piece and its publication while a faculty member at Washington University in St Louis is beyond dispute. Dr Kuklo, a graduate of West Point, was a member of the faculty at the time of the article’s submission and publication that removes any defence of claiming non-institutional involvement in this matter.
Dr Dan Riew, the Mildred B. Simon Distinguished Professor and Chief of Cervical Spine Surgery in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, alleged that his colleague’s forging signatures of four phantom co-authors may have been subsequent to oral authorisation. Astonishingly, Dr Riew claimed that when a researcher is without a fax machine or is abroad, the forging of signatures may be the only alternative. How about an email attachment form that is returned with an online signature! I would hope Dr Riew is aware of a basic rule of research that is taught to high-school seniors: Neither claim work that is not your own nor give credit of work to others when they are not entitled much less implicate them in falsified medical research. Well Dr Kuklo apparently only forged four signatures of authorship and not his own.
The Strange World of Dr Riew
While I am not a physician but a Ph.D., I have had considerable experience in judging and commenting on academic misconduct cases and have never heard of a professional organisation allowing an author of an article to claim joint authorship with others without their consent. In fact one of the physicians, Lt. Col. Romney C. Andersen, that Dr Kuklo claimed as a fellow submitter complained to his superiors and JBJS that he was neither aware of the article nor asked to assume joint ownership of the research project.
I am frequently asked to “endorse” works in which I submit a brief laudatory statement about the monograph that appears either on the published work or in a promotional flier. I have a hunch that Dr. Kuklo, however bizarrely, was looking for endorsers of his work, and felt that faking joint authorship with other investigators would achieve that end. Yet I find it incomprehensible that a board certified physician with both an M.D. and J.D. degree could believe that such an action could escape scrutiny. Of course, we do not know Dr. Kuklo’s side of this issue but I hope he will be asked: “How is it possible that you could claim joint authorship with other physicians without their prior knowledge? Is it true you forged their signatures and submitted the article under false pretenses as claimed by one of the faux investigators? Were you aware that patients and their physicians might be falsely influenced in using bone-growth intervention that is not proven to be superior to other treatment? Are you aware that your research has consequences for the wellness of potential patients?” Dr Riew to the contrary, I find it utterly at variance with rationality that such an action could be justified.
My father, who taught at the Washington University School of Medicine for some thirty years, would never allow such an action to occur. He co-authored with Michael Somogyi, the lead researcher, a classic transformative article on treating diabetes mellitus: “Insulin as a cause of extreme hyperglycemia and instability,” Bulletin of the St Louis Medical Society 32:498-503, 1938. I know having been taught that honour and integrity and ethical behaviour are supreme qualities of human conduct, that my father and none of his colleagues at Wash U would engage in the type of egregious and possibly illegal practice alleged to have been committed by Dr Timothy R. Kuklo.
Other posts on Doctor Timothy R. Kuklo:
May 20, 2010 Wall Street Journal reporter asks question
May 20, 2010 Kuklo cited in Journal of Bone and Spine Surgery
August 20, 2009 Colonel Kuklo resigns from Wash U
July 15, 2009 A.W.O.L. Speculation
May 17, 2009 Dr Riew first critiqued