INFORMED CONSENT: A Story of Personal Tragedy and Corporate Betrayal--Inside the Silicone Breast Implant Crisis by John A. Byrne
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INFORMED CONSENT: A Story of Personal Tragedy and Corporate Betrayal--Inside the Silicone Breast Implant Crisis

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A haunting case study in corporate recklessness and its consequences. Business Week correspondent Byrne (The Whiz Kids, 1993, etc.) brings to vivid life the human costs of the breast-implant calamity that helped land Dow Corning Corp. in federal bankruptcy court earlier this year. He does so with the cooperation of decidedly unusual sources: John E. and Colleen Swanson. John, the principal architect of Dow Corning's much admired ethics program, recused himself in 1991 from further involvement with silicone implants. At the same time, Colleen, who had suffered agonizing health problems due to the implants, submitted to a disfiguring explantation. Using the moral, physical, and professional torment of the Swansons (who will receive half the book's royalties) as a centerpiece of his narrative, Byrne recounts the almost offhand way in which Dow Corning entered the implant business. He goes on to review how the company (an industrial chemicals enterprise with almost no experience in consumer markets) battened down the hatches at the first sign of trouble. Dow Corning stonewalled injured women seeking redress for the side effects of implants they had been assured were perfectly safe; as a matter of policy, moreover, spokesmen played fast and loose with incriminating clinical data. In time, litigation opened enough in-house files to convict Dow Corning in the court of public opinion and force it to seek the protection of Chapter 11. Byrne provides a thoroughgoing rundown on how an ostensibly righteous corporation risked disaster with actions and reactions that in the aggregate (and in retrospect) look very like misconduct. He also assesses the impact of Dow Corning's fall, e.g., on breast cancer victims who want prostheses. His principal accomplishment, though, is to bring home the issue of stewardship through the anguished eyes of a single organization man and his unfortunate wife. A first-rate take on corporate responsibility--at once disturbing and engrossing.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: McGraw-Hill