Lessons from Theranos: Changing Narratives of Individual Ethics in Science and Engineering

Keywords: ethics, bioengineering, university-industry relations, governance


The meteoric ascent and equally dramatic fall of Theranos has been covered prolifically in the media. Presented as an ambitious inventor gone rogue, the discursive construction of the Theranos scandal in popular media and in the biomedical community reifies tired narratives of the role of ethics in science and engineering fields more generally: narratives that emphasizes individual integrity and common sense rather than the structures and norms that leave scientists and engineers vulnerable to ethical quandaries. In this short critical engagement, I argue that the ways Theranos has been captured obscures important conversations about ethics in bioscience and biotechnology, both in the private sector and in university spaces. I call for STS scholars to engage with scientists and engineers to imagine ways to structurally embed ethics and justice in future technoscientific endeavors.

Author Biography

Melanie Jeske, University of California, San Francisco
Mel Jeske is a PhD candidate in sociology at UCSF.
26 Jun 2020
Critical Engagements