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The Whistle-blower's Dilemma

Speaking out may be the ethical thing to do, but too often it comes at a steep price

6 min read
Salvador Castro
No Regrets: Salvador Castro lost his job for blowing the whistle about a defective medical device but says he'd 'do it again in a heartbeat.'
Photo: Jordan Hollender

When Salvador Castro, a medical electronics engineer working at Air-Shields Inc. in Hatboro, Pa., spotted a serious design flaw in one of the company's infant incubators, he didn't hesitate to tell his supervisor. The problem was easy and inexpensive to fix, whereas the possible consequences of not fixing it could kill. Much to his surprise, though, nobody acted on his observation, and when Castro threatened to notify the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), he was fired. "I was shocked," Castro says.

Castro's case is far from unique. Indeed, it's the rare whistle-blower who manages to expose wrongdoing and remain on the job. The vast majority suffer a fate similar to Castro's--they end up being harassed, fired (often on trumped-up charges), and blackballed from their professions. The financial and emotional strain can snowball further, breaking up marriages, draining bank accounts, and taking a toll on physical and mental health.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Vertical
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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