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What's the cost of being a whistleblower? Author Carl Elliott knows.

Author and professor Carl Elliott.
Courtesy of Carl Elliott
Author and professor Carl Elliott.

What’s the cost of doing the right thing? That’s the question Professor Carl Elliott asks in his new book, "The Occasional Human Sacrifice."

The book addresses the moral struggle that whistleblowers face, and why it is not the kind of struggle that most people imagine.

The book was inspired by his own whistleblowing experience at the University of Minnesota, where he spent seven years trying to get an external investigation of a suicide in a research study conducted by our Department of Psychiatry.

He was eventually vindicated by a state investigation, but the experience left him beaten down and ostracized.

Elliott began to talk to other medical whistleblowers as a way of trying to figure out how things could have gone better. He started with Peter Buxtun, who blew the whistle on the Tuskegee syphilis study in 1972, and ended with the four physicians in Sweden who exposed Paolo Machhiarini's lethal synthetic trachea implants at the Karolinska Institute in 2016.

Elliott says it’s not an uplifting book — and it’s not meant to be. But he does hope it will at least help other potential whistleblowers decide what to do.

Elliott, who grew up in Clover, South Carolina, and graduated from Davidson College, joins us on the next Charlotte Talks.


Carl Elliott, professor of philosophy, University of Minnesota; author, "The Occasional Human Sacrifice"

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Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.