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2davidc8's avatar

Amazing story about Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos: how could this happen (details inside)?

Asked by 2davidc8 (9406points) September 10th, 2016

Here’s the story.
How could so many supposedly intelligent people be deceived for so long?
Are the board of directors just rubber-stampers? Aren’t they supposed to bring knowledge and expertise to the table?
Why did not one of those scientists in their white lab coats figure out that what they were working on was bogus?

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13 Answers

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

“Under Holmes’s direction, the secretive company had barred other scientists from writing peer-review papers on its technology.”

That’s why we have continuous outside peer reviews and ethical consultant agencies in every aspect of medicine.

That’s how you hide it. Through a combination of extremely high salaries to key people and highly compartmentalized labs sections, I suppose you could make a billion dollars for yourself and eight more for your golden goose.

LostInParadise's avatar

I remember reading an early article about Holmes and her company and wondering when I would be able to have blood tests which used her equipment. As I recall, it is not just that the blood samples required were small but that the time to get results would be very short.

It really is extraordinary how she got away with this for so long. It is certainly simple enough to test the validity of the company’s testing process. Allow them to take a very small blood sample and compare the results to blood samples taken the usual way.

ragingloli's avatar

I love the article’s comparisons to Steve Jobs and Apple. How fitting.

CWOTUS's avatar

The article seems to describe pretty well exactly how it happened. What’s the question?

monthly's avatar

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. ”

Abraham Lincoln

SmashTheState's avatar

A classic case of the Dunning-Kruger effect. People with money are constantly receiving reinforcement from everyone around them, the media, and pop culture that the fact they have a lot of money is proof of expertise. They come to believe that buying their way to third base means they hit a never-ending stream of home runs.

I often use this to my advantage as an organizer and shit-disturber. I look, dress, and smell like a bum. The people I fight – cops, lawyers, politicians, and business lobbyists – believe that the same way wealth indicates expertise, lack of it indicates incompetence. For some of them the prejudice is so strong that even when I’ve beaten them in the courts, in the media, and on the streets, they still can’t bring themselves to believe they’ve been hustled and continue to hand me easy victories by underestimating me. This is significant because you look at someone like Donald Trump, who is a terrible businessman, the exact opposite effect occurs: no matter how many poor decisions he makes or how much money he loses, the fact that he’s rich is enough to convince people he’s successful and infallible.

monthly's avatar

I disagree. I don’t think it is Dunning-Kruger. I think this is a con job.

monthly's avatar

Oh, and @ragingloli I agree about the comparison to Jobs. The difference is that Jobs produced actual products. Theranos is the equivalent of medical vaporware.

monthly's avatar

It certainly may be fraud. The company is being investigated by an alphabet soup of regulators.

RocketGuy's avatar

Less regulation means more regular people ripped off.

flutherother's avatar

Hans Christian Andersen’s story ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ comes to mind.

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