Research volunteer sues University of Manitoba for ear damage

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A woman is suing the University of Manitoba, two professors and a PhD student for negligence, saying her eardrum was punctured during a clinical trial associated with the university.

Julianna van den Beuken volunteered as a research subject for a study of neurological disorders that used EVestG technology, which involved having her brain activity measured using electrodes placed on her forehead and in each ear.

The electrodes in her ears rested up against the eardrum, and that's where she says things went wrong. 

While the electrode was being put into van den Beuken's right ear, she felt a pop and sudden, sharp pain, her statement of claim says. The electrode was removed but put back in in another attempt to get readings.

After the testing was done and the electrode was taken out, there was bloody discharge and she had pain and sensitivity to loud noises and high-pitched sounds, the claim says.

Van den Beuken's participation in the study resulted in loss of hearing, a perforated eardrum, fullness and pressure sensations in her ear, jaw discomfort and dysfunction, muscle spasm and head and neck pain, she alleges.

The pain and discomfort have limited her activities and lifestyle, she says. She continues to seek medical care for her injuries and has incurred out-of-pocket expenses related to her injury, her claim states. 

None of these allegations have been proven in court and the university has yet to file a statement of defence.

John Danakas, executive director of public affairs at the University of Manitoba, said he can't comment on a case that is before the courts, but the university takes research safety seriously.

"The University of Manitoba has a strong record of commitment to compliance with research protocols," he said.