Do We Really Have to Feel Bad for Elizabeth Holmes?

slate.com
5 min read
fairly easy
The once-in-a-generation fraudster is alleging abuse.
Elizabeth Holmes met Sunny Balwani when she was 18 years old. He was 37. They began dating around the same time that Holmes dropped out of Stanford to start a blood testing company, Theranos. About six years later, Balwani joined Theranos as Chief Operating Officer. He was known for his temper. He left the company in 2016, amid investigations into its technology.

Holmes is now alleging that her relationship with Balwani was abusive—that Balwani controlled how she ate and dressed, and monitored her text messages. He would withhold affection, he would throw sharp, hard objects at her. Balwani, through lawyers, denies the allegations, calling them "salacious and inflammatory."

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I've been turning the news over in my head since it broke. I'd already been thinking about Holmes because her trial for fraud began Wednesday, and is set to last months. Among those who may testify to illustrate the consequence of an unreliable blood testing technology is a woman who was told by a Theranos blood test that she had miscarried, and a couple people who were told they were positive for HIV, when neither was the case. Holmes, once celebrated for being so rich and innovative and also a woman, is now causing genuine trouble for women founders stuck in the shadow of her image, and also for other founders of blood testing start-ups. By the best account that exists—Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou's book, Bad Blood—the technology that landed Holmes her celebrity status did not exactly work, a fact that she spent a lot of effort covering up.

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The question I've been asking myself since learning of Holmes' claims is this: What does it mean to be a person who takes allegations of intimate partner abuse seriously, to believe that taking allegations of abuse from women seriously is necessary for the very fabric of our society and sense of wellbeing, and then be confronted with allegations from Holmes?

It is…
Shannon Palus
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