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Conformity, power, and blowing the whistle on medical abuse

A bottle of antidepressant pills named Effexor is shown photographed in Miami, Florida.
A bottle of antidepressant pills named Effexor is shown photographed in Miami, Florida.

If youworked in medicine andsaw something unethical happening at your workplace, would you blow the whistle? 

That doesn’t always end well. Carl Elliott knows that far too well.Answering thequestion of why some people choose to speak out, and what happens after, became a years-long journeyfor him.

Elliot is a professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota. He blew the whistle on his own workplace after a mandied bysuicide while participating in a psychiatric clinical study. The decision to come out against his employer became a hard-fought battle that resulted in alienation and at times, hopelessness.

His own experience made him reach out to others who blew the whistle on medical abuse, from those who spoke out against the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study to a whistleblower at a cancer research center in Seattle who said he wished he’d been more cynical.

These situations are gut-wrenching but fascinating tales of human nature, conformity, and power. You can read about them in his new book, “The Occasional Human Sacrifice: Medical Experimentation and the Price of Saying No.”

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Michelle Harven
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