Hill Center at the Old Naval HospitalWashington, DC, United States

Profs & Pints DC: Medical Research's Whistleblowers

By Profs and Pints (other events)

Thursday, June 20 2024 6:00 PM 8:30 PM EDT

Profs and Pints DC presents “Medical Research’s Whistleblowers,” a look at abuses in medical studies and how they get exposed, by Carl Elliott, M.D., a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota and the author of The Occasional Human Sacrifice: Medical Experimentation and the Price of Saying No.

When abuses occur in the course of medical research the institutions involved generally deny even the most glaringly obvious wrongdoing, and doctors and other staff members often remain silent for years. Whistleblowing is the exception, not the rule, and rarely is there any real justice for unwittingly victimized research subjects or members of their families.

What is it that enforces such a code of silence when it comes to medical research that violates the basic ethics of that field? What is it that leads a rare individual to say no to practices that are deceptive, exploitative or harmful?

Hear such questions tackled by Dr. Carl Elliott, who formerly held the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the Library of Congress and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in support of his efforts to draw attention to medical research’s ethical lapses.

Dr. Elliott will discuss his experiences at his own university, where for many years he fought for an external inquiry into a psychiatric study in which an especially vulnerable patient lost his life. He’ll also discuss six other case studies in which patients were deceived into participating in studies that were risky and often lethal.

Beginning with the Tuskegee syphilis study and ending with the scandal surrounding experimental synthetic trachea implants at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, he’ll tell the stories of medical insiders who spoke out against abuses and often paid a terrible price for doing the right thing. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)  

Image: A doctor injects a test subject with a placebo as part of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study (Center for Disease Control and Prevention photo).