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Supreme Court Follows Administration Recommendation, Declines to Hear Medical Experimentation Case

Supreme Court Follows Administration Recommendation, Declines to Hear Medical Experimentation Case

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the fact that the U.S. government had asked the Supreme Court not to hear an Alien Tort Statute (ATS) case against Pfizer, which accused the drug maker of engaging in nonconsensual medical experimentation in Nigeria.  Yesterday we learned that the Supreme Court had followed this recommendation:

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Pfizer Inc of a ruling that reinstated U.S. lawsuits by Nigerian families who said the drugmaker tested an experimental antibiotic on their children without getting adequate consent.

The justices, without comment, let stand a ruling by a U.S. appeals court in New York that allowed the lawsuits involving alleged harm caused by the drug, Trovan, to go forward.

This is a victory for human rights.  The Supreme Court's decision not to hear Pfizer's petition means the case will proceed.  The Second Circuit ruled that international law prohibited human experimentation, and that allegations that Pfizer tested experimental drugs on Nigerian children without their parents' consent adequately stated a violation of this prohibition.

While the U.S. courts are not always deferential to the views of the U.S. government--and they should not be, especially where the government's submissions are clearly politically motivated--this is one area where the administration's views are highly influential.  The Supreme Court, which specifically asked for the views of the U.S. government in this case, frequently follows the government's recommendation on whether to take a case or not.  While the Supreme Court often differs from the government's views on how to decide a particular case, the Court hears very few cases every year (about a hundred), and generally agrees with the government on whether a case is significant enough to merit its review.  So far the Supreme Court has declined to hear every corporate ATS case that has come before it.