Monday, December 18, 2017

Tuskeegee Truth Teller and the Perils of Whistleblowing

Source: The American Scholar
I have veered off topic here as I am not a medical ethicist. The topic is at least tangentially related to infectious diseases, in this case, syphilis.

This article in The American Scholar (Phi Beta Kappa Society) chronicles the action of Peter Buxton, a former US Public Health Employee, who, through patience and persistence, brought to light the infamous Tuskegee Institute syphilis study.

The article underscores the rarity of whistleblowing, both then and now, and highlights the perils of speaking up- across broad and varied disciplines including business, medicine and politics. Honest behavior is not rewarded and is commonly penalized. 

Even with greater awareness and university investigational review boards to ensure ethical standards, the federal research oversight system still has no mechanism for dealing with whistleblower complaints.

Yes, we have made progress in medical ethics. Speaking up for the truth is still challenging and now without consequences.

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