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J Med Ethics 34:869-870 doi:10.1136/jme.2008.024687
  • Global medical ethics

The Holocaust and medical ethics: the voices of the victims

  1. A Jotkowitz
  1. The Jakobovits Center for Jewish Medical Ethics and the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel
  1. Alan Jotkowitz, Prywess Center for Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, BGU, POB 151, Beer-Sheva, Israel 84105; ajotkowitz{at}hotmail.com
  • Received 4 February 2008
  • Revised 12 June 2008
  • Accepted 18 June 2008

Abstract

Fifty-nine years ago, Dr Leo Alexander published his now famous report on medicine under the Nazis. In his report he describes the two major crimes of German physicians. The participation of physicians in euthanasia and genocide and the horrible experiments performed on concentration camp prisoners in the name of science. In response to this gross violation of human rights by physicians, the Nuremberg military tribunal, which investigated and prosecuted the perpetrators of the Nazi war crimes, established ten principles of ethical conduct in medical research in 1949. Foremost among them was the need for voluntary consent of the human subject and that the experiment be conducted to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering. Notwithstanding all these important efforts and impressive achievements in understanding the ethical failings of Nazi physicians, the bioethical community has almost completely ignored the moral challenges facing the victims of the atrocities. These dilemmas and their responses have continued relevance for modern medicine.

Footnotes

  • Competing interests: None.