The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

2003: Bailey Ethics Investigation

NOVEMBER 25, 2003
University investigates ethics of sex researcher
By Robert Stacy McCain
Northwestern University is investigating charges of ethics violations by a psychology professor whose federally funded research has been criticized by House Republicans.
Professor J. Michael Bailey has been accused of failing to “obtain the informed consent of research subjects” for his book about transsexuality, “The Man Who Would Be Queen.”
The university is “proceeding with a full investigation” of Mr. Bailey, C. Bradley Moore, Northwestern’s vice president for research, wrote in a
Nov. 12 letter to Anjelica Kieltyka.
Ms. Kieltyka complained to the university that the professor used her and others as “guinea pigs” for his research and described them without their consent in his book.
A former Northwestern psychology student who was born male, Ms. Kieltyka had sex-change surgery in 1991 and now describes herself as a lesbian. Ms. Kieltyka said Mr. Bailey’s book describes her, using the pseudonym “Cher,” as the “poster child” for one of his theories about transsexuality.
Neither Mr. Bailey nor Northwestern officials have made any public statement about the ethics investigation, and did not respond yesterday to requests for comment.
In December, Rep. Dave Weldon, Florida Republican, condemned as “disgusting” Mr. Bailey’s study of women’s sexual arousal that received a $147,000 grant from a division of the National Institutes of Health. Women were paid as much as $75 each to “watch a series of commercially available film clips, some of which will be sexually explicit, while we monitor your body’s sexual arousal,” according to a flier seeking volunteers.
Mr. Weldon and other House Republicans have accused NIH of diverting taxpayer dollars away from potentially life-saving research to pay for such sex studies.
In July, the House narrowly rejected an amendment by Rep. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, that would have blocked NIH funding for four sex research projects. Mr. Toomey could not be reached yesterday for comment on Northwestern’s ethics investigation of Mr. Bailey.
Ms. Kieltyka said she met Mr. Bailey while working in the 1990s as an advocate for individuals seeking sex-change treatment. She said Mr. Bailey agreed to interview several Chicago-area transsexuals and help them qualify for sex-change surgery [two letters of approval from psychiatrists or clinical psychologists are required prior to surgery]. But Ms. Kieltyka said Mr. Bailey did not tell the women they would be featured in his book.
“We didn’t even know we were guinea pigs,” Ms. Kieltyka told the Daily Northwestern, the university’s newspaper.
Another of Mr. Bailey’s subjects, who remains anonymous, wrote in a July letter to the university that when the professor interviewed her in 1998, her “sole purpose of meeting with Dr. Bailey was to obtain the most important [approval] letter for my [sex-change] surgery,” and was never aware that the professor intended to use her as a research subject.
“Bailey is an embarrassment to the entire field of academic psychology,” said Lynn Conway, a computer scientist and University of Michigan professor who helped initiate the investigation of Mr. Bailey’s work.
Ms. Conway, who underwent sex-change surgery in 1968, called Mr. Bailey “the Milli Vanilli of sex research.”