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THE OCCASIONAL HUMAN SACRIFICE

MEDICAL EXPERIMENTATION AND THE PRICE OF SAYING NO

A disturbingly eye-opening must-read.

A striking account of medical malfeasance and the whistleblowers who have fought against it.

Though he graduated from medical school, Elliott, author of White Coat, Black Hat, never practiced and now teaches philosophy, including a course on scandals in medical research and those who blew the whistle. In Hollywood movies, whistleblowers often struggle courageously before crushing the villain. In reality, they generally lose their jobs, pay their own lawyers’ fees, and, blackballed within their profession, disappear into obscurity. Elliott’s account of a handful of experiments makes for fascinating yet painful reading. In every case, many participants disapproved but kept quiet. The author concentrates on those who spoke up, and it is not a pretty picture. He begins with the infamous Tuskegee study, which began in 1932. “For forty years,” writes Elliott, “the US Public Health Service had deceived and exploited hundreds of poor Black men with syphilis.” From the late 1940s through the 1980s at Willowbrook, the massive Staten Island institution for children with intellectual disabilities, researchers deliberately infected children with hepatitis on the excuse that they would have gotten it anyway. A 1960s Pentagon-financed study at Cincinnati Medical Center aimed to determine how much radiation American soldiers could withstand. All subjects developed radiation sickness, and many died. Perhaps the most grotesque researcher in Elliott’s harrowing narrative was Paolo Macchiarini, a charismatic, possibly psychopathic surgeon who became an international celebrity for developing a synthetic trachea that could replace one destroyed by cancer or infections. After years of fruitless whistleblowing, it finally became clear that the replacement trachea was worthless; all patients died after prolonged suffering. Elliott’s whistleblowers have a spotty record; many victories were partial or occurred long after the fact; some failed; none prospered from their efforts. “Whistleblowing is a poor mechanism for institutional reform,” he writes, and “full-blown success” is difficult to find.

A disturbingly eye-opening must-read.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9781324065500

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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