Book Review of Carl Elliott’s new book: The Occasional Human Sacrifice: Medical Experimentation and the Price of Saying No

I just published a review of Carl Elliott’s latest book here in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. Here are my concluding chapters from the review:

Elliott notes that many whistleblowers start out as idealists. Indeed, that idealism is at the core of what drove them to blow the whistle in the first place. But in the end, whistleblowers can end up with their idealism in tatters: “(Whistleblowers) talk about disillusionment, loneliness, and anger, about their struggles with guilt and shame, about a sense of betrayal and crushed idealism.”

Given this reality, by the end of The Occasional Human Sacrifice, we see that its title refers not just to the research subjects who have died at the hands of researchers, but also to the whistleblowers themselves, who are compelled to proceed even while hurling themselves towards their own demise.

At its heart, The Occasional Human Sacrifice is a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit, a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there are some who refuse to be silenced, and it serves as a clarion call for ethical accountability in an age where the pursuit of scientific advancement, personal aggrandisement, and greed often eclipses the upholding of basic moral principles.

In conclusion, The Occasional Human Sacrifice is a must read for everyone who cares about principles and doing right, but especially for bioethicists, IRB committee members, and others interested in human experimentation gone awry, and the price some pay to shed light on the malfeasance and injustices therein.

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FDA Over-Regulation of Lab Tests Could Harm Patients

Requiring FDA approval for laboratory developed tests would be an overreaction to the Theranos debacle and would ultimately harm patients

See my opinion piece about proposed new oversight and regulation of lab developed tests by the FDA here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/an-fda-overreaction-to-theranoss-implosion-would-harm-patients

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Honored to Take Part in the Podcast Earlier Today about Physician Health Programs with Pamela Wible and Kernan Manion that was hosted by Joseph Brigandi

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ICE Detention Facilities are Routinely Utilizing Solitary Confinement: Today is a Major Day for Human Rights

Federal whistleblower Ellen Gallagher has been decrying the use of solitary confinement on individuals in immigration detention for a decade, but little has changed to date despite her beyond courageous efforts. Today, a report, found here, co-authored by Katherine Peeler at Harvard Medical School, along with others at Harvard Medical School, Harvard Law School, and Physicians for Human Rights, amplifies the message that Ellen Gallagher has brought to attention, namely that US immigration authorities routinely lock thousands of people in solitary confinement and flout international human rights standards in its sprawling network of immigration detention facilities.

Many news outlets, such as this one, have reported the release of Dr. Peeler’s report.

I am beyond ecstatic that the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention is now in the open air and I completely support calls for reform.

Kudos to my friends, colleagues, and sometime co-authors (lucky me!), Katie Peeler and Ellen Gallgaher, for their tireless efforts to expose and report this travesty of justice and all norms of human rights.

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The Mirror article: Mystery over nitrogen execution death with fears it’ll be ‘incredibly painful’

From the article, which you can find here:

“Professor J Wesley Boyd works as part of the faculty at the Center for Bioethics and is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He spoke to The Mirror about Smith’s upcoming execution, and what the convict could experience as he is suffocated using nitrogen gas.

“87 per cent of the air that we breathe is nitrogen and 21 per cent is oxygen, so nitrogen is by no means a foreign substance for us,” he explained. “When one is executed by nitrogen hypoxia, they are breathing only nitrogen with no oxygen whatsoever, and because they are deprived of oxygen they suffocate.”

The state has maintained that the nitrogen gas, which will be administered through a mask placed over Smith’s face, will cause him to quickly lose consciousness before he dies from a lack of oxygen. However, with this being the first execution using this method, many have compared Smith to a “guinea pig” as much of what’s known about nitrogen hypoxia comes from medical journal records about industrial accidents and suicide attempts, not executions.

Looking at what Smith’s experience will be like, Professor Boyd said: “The short answer is that we don’t know what dying by nitrogen hypoxia will be like because it is novel and untested in humans as a means of execution. As a result, it might be incredibly painful and/or distressing, and to my knowledge, there is no scientific evidence to suggest otherwise.”

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Baylor College of Medicine student Amelia Mercado and I appeared on this STAT First Opinion podcast with Torie Bosch

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Giving Immigrants and Asylum Seekers a Voice for Human Rights

Baylor College of Medicine has a podcast called Resonance in which I was recently a guest. Their description of the show is:

“Dr. Wesley Boyd will share the milestones in his career that have accumulated into his current work in bioethics, humanities, human rights, and psychiatry. We will learn about the events that led him to co-found the Human Rights and Asylum Clinic at Cambridge Health Alliance. From there, we will discuss his continuous involvement in the advocacy of asylum seekers and the impact of his work on ensuring immigrants’ and asylum seekers’ plea for refuge and medical care is heard and answered.”

The podcast is here.

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Lecture on Medical Ethics for Forethought India

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Sayonara Facebook and Twitter

After saving all of my photos–ironically, seeing vacation photos was why I joined many years ago–I left Facebook roughly a month ago. Several years ago during a visit in Nashville, my former teacher Larry Churchill was decrying so many of Facebook’s predatory practices and he said something to the effect of “I’d run from that platform.” His words continued to resonate with me over the years and last month it was just time for me to go.

I joined Twitter about a decade ago when the publisher of my book Almost Addicted said I needed to be on Twitter to help promote the book. From the jump I was an ambivalent user at most who’d been thinking that I might sign off. When Elon Musk bought Twitter that just about sealed the deal in and of itself.

Alas, I quit Twitter yesterday, after seeing a Washington Post article on Elon Musk in which Musk was quoted as saying, “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.” How many different ways is that statement just plain hideous?

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KCRW: Life Examined: In search of a (good) therapist: Insurance, fit, and stigma

I’m delighted that KCRW: Life Examined public radio in LA devoted this segment to mental health care and honored to have been a guest on the show. You can find the broadcast here.

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