Former Theranos employee discusses his decision to disclose
October 25, 2018
Tech company Theranos has been in the spotlight for the past few years, but not for their “technological advancements” in field. Instead, they were in the spotlight thanks to the actions of a lab employee,Tyler Schultz.
Former Theranos employee and eventual whistleblower Tyler Schultz found himself in a divided world, torn between family and his own morals when he discovered the secrets of his former employer.
Schultz spoke about the unethical actions of his former employer and the challenge she faced at a question and answer session hosted by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.
Schultz spoke in front of a packed house consisting of students and faculty along with local reporters on Oct. 18.
Schultz soon discovered that doing the right thing might come with some consequences for the people close to him. His grandfather was a member of the Theranos board of directors and a close family friend of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes.
He was a former lab scientist for Theranos,a blood sampling company claiming to conduct accurate and routine blood tests with only a fraction of the medically approved amount of blood.
After becoming quite familiar with the device Theranos used to test blood, Schultz realized the company was falsely claiming a single drop of blood could provide several hundred tests.
“Everything inside the device was something that I have already seen before in other laboratories up to that time,” Schultz explained to the audience. “It couldn’t run hundreds of tests, it couldn’t even run two tests at the same time.”
Schultz’s growing suspicions eventually pushed him to speak with Wall Street Journal journalist, John Carreyrou, despite his family’s advice to keep quiet about what he knew.
Schultz said his decision to contact the journalist was one of social justice and moral action.
“John really wanted to ask hard questions,”Schultz said. “I did research on John and I saw that based on his past reporting,people had been arrested, so action had happened after John’s reporting which gave me a lot of confidence that this would be worth it.”
After Schultz finished giving background of the situation at the discussion, the audience had a chance to speak directly to Schultz.
This part of the session allowed for the community to directly understand his actions as well as express their opinions on his decision to disclose.
Audience members who spoke up ranged from a former Theranos employee who thanked Schultz for his bravery to a Theranos patron who accredited Schultz with possibly saving her life.
While many people in the audience praised Schultz for following his moral convictions and publicly outing Theranos, Schultz made a point to explain that certain circumstances allowed him to do what is right, whereas other people may be in more binding situations. He felt he was able to sacrifice his job and privacy in order to expose Theranos.
“There’s a huge privilege aspect to this story,” Schultz said. “The only reason that I was able to do what I did is because I was willing to spend a million dollars doing it.”
Schultz explained how whistleblowing can affect people differently depending on their income,connections and willingness to fight the problem.
He also highlighted how problems similar to those he faced with Theranos are not uncommon.
Also at the talk, Markkula Center Trust Project program manager Anita Varma recounted her own similar story of whistleblowing.
“I worked in big tech on the lab side and we were thoroughly discouraged from ever speaking with the other side of things,” Varma said. “But the pressure of fundraising and generating income on the office side of things creates a need to say we’ve generated more donations than we really had.Many people had adopted the attitude of, ‘who’s really going to check?’”
One of the main issues both Schultz and Varma highlighted during the talk was how ethics can be commonly overlooked and disregarded in the workplace, especially in big, fastpaced companies.
Sophomore finance major Jaden Hippler said he learned a lot about ethics in the workplace from Schultz and his actions.
“Ethical business practices are more and more important in modern day business and should be put ahead of all profits,” Hippler said. “Mr.Schultz’s ability to speak out and voice the unethical practices of Theranos is increasingly uncommon in today’s world and more people should try to be like him.”
Schultz said he hopes his story will stand as an example for emerging business leaders at Santa Clara, and will remind students that no matter the challenges and dilemmas that one might face in the workplace, doing the right thing is always the right choice.
Contact Anthony Alegrete email@example.com or call (408)554-4852.