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

Melanie Jeske


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.


ethics; bioengineering; university-industry relations; governance

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17351/ests2020.411

Copyright (c) 2020 Melanie Jeske

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