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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