At age 59, Janet Keyzer decided to become a whistleblower against her employer, the University of California at Davis, and in return for this career ending decision, the whistleblower was awarded $730,000 from a jury verdict on Monday. A former administrative nurse, Keyzer was fired from the nation’s largest public university system back in 2007, after divulging unethical research methods in a study on “pain management” involving prison inmates. Fortunately for Keyzer, legislators have proscribed employer retaliation provisions in state and federal qui tam laws, to protect employees like Keyzer from retaliatory discharge.
Employers shall not suspend, harass, and demote an employee to silence the whistleblowing employee, or use this tactic to intimidate other employees who might otherwise step forward to expose fraud. For Keyzer, the jury verdict will likely include reinstatement with double back pay since 2007. The attorneys representing the university must weigh their legal alternatives in the wake of the near million-dollar jury award: take the verdict, or appeal.
The news report announcing the jury verdict failed to provide a racial breakdown of the prison study that resulted in Keyzer’s termination; however, it is a safe bet that (based on published statistics) a large percentage of participants in the U.C. Davis study, were African-American males. So what we have is yet another scientific “study” backed by the government, directed towards on uneducated population of African-American males, in partnership with a nationally renowned academic institution… Deja vu! Sounds like another similar such experiment conducted eighty-two years ago in Tuskegee, Alabama.
In 1932, the United States Public Health Service launched a six-month “study” dubbed the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” The “study” involved 600 African-American male sharecroppers—399 already infected with syphilis, and 201 having no diagnosis. In case you are wondering what would compel the 201 with no disease to participate in such a “study,” the government wined and dined them with promises of “free health care” to treat their “bad blood.” (The government sweetened the deal further offering these poor sharecroppers free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance.) The unsuspecting 201 were never told, however, that the hypodermic needle injections were anything but “free healthcare.” Indeed, these 201 were intentionally injected with syphilis.
By 1947, the anti-biotic penicillin was widely available, and being used to treat cases of syphilis; however, during the Tuskegee Experiment, scientists never allowed syphilis subjects to receive treatment with penicillin, or any other anti-bacterial for that matter. This Tuskegee Experiment expressly forbade any infected subject to receive treatment, and instead involved the “scientific” research of simply observing their gradual demise towards the grave. This Tuskegee Experiment had in fact become a de facto control group, for the rest of the United States population treating syphilis with penicillin.
As in the 21st century University of California case, the 20th century Tuskegee Experiment case likely would have continued ad infinitum but for the intervention of a fearless whistleblower. In the latter case, the whistleblower leaked the sham to the Associated Press, which resulted in a public outcry. The backlash caused the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs to review the Tuskegee Experiment by convening an ad hoc panel of medical experts and lawyers. After a one-month investigation, the Tuskegee Experiment was found to be operating in an unethical manner, namely by injecting subjects with the disease without prior consent, and withholding treatment. Forty years after the “six month study” began in 1932, it was finally terminated in November of 1972. Another eerie parallel with the University of California, Davis study is that the Tuskegee study ended in litigation. In 1974, the class-action lawsuit filed in 1973 over the unethical practice of injecting unwitting African-American sharecroppers with syphilis, was settled out of court for $10 million dollars.
While both the U.C. Davis study, and the Tuskegee Experiment, are two of scores of such “studies” funded by the government to effect “population control,” yet innocuously presented to unsuspecting taxpayers as “scientific research,” both cases highlight the importance of whistleblowers. If you believe that your government is beyond reproach, and that we don’t need whistleblowers, then you are sadly mistaken, both the U.C. Davis study and the Tuskegee Experiment prove otherwise. While such anecdotes are disheartening, that makes it all the more imperative that upstanding citizens with clean hands step forward any time they have evidence that the government is using taxpayer dollars to advance fraud on the public. This is the case even it if means going at it alone as a private attorney general on behalf of taxpayers at large, because the current state or federal administration after due notice elects to turn a blind eye.
If you have, or think you have a whistleblower/false claim action, contact the Evans Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation at 415-441-8669 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Evans Law Firm handles qui tam (whistleblower/false claim) claims, personal injury, consumer fraud class actions, insurance fraud, banking fraud, consumer product liability, and financial and physical elder abuse.