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There are many different kinds of good medical ethics. One example is thoughtful, logical, analytic exploration of personal experience, using the social science and ethics literature to identify and understand ethical dilemmas that arise from experience and to make progress towards their resolution. ‘A long shadow: Nazi doctors, moral vulnerability and contemporary medical culture’ by Alessandra Colaianni is such a paper. For that reason, I have made it Editor's Choice (See page 435).
Alessandra Colaianni starts (and I quote at length because this is also an unusually well written paper),
‘On a rainy day in Oswiecim, Poland, I stood next to the rusty railroad tracks leading into Auschwitz in the same place where Nazi doctors performed ‘selections’, sentencing millions of innocent people to death or imprisonment by pointing left or right. Although I had spent weeks studying the role of physicians in the Holocaust as part of the Fellow- ships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics, I was incredulous. The value of physicians to the Nazi regime is clear: their support gave scientific legitimacy to the principles of eugenics on which the Nazis built their Rassenpolitik (racial policy) and rationalised murder under the logic of medical necessity. Indeed, without active physician partici- pation, the Nazi regime could not have achieved its murderous aims so efficiently: physicians disguised the horrors by systematising them and cloaking them in misleading medical jargon. In so doing, they subverted their own professional values. How could so many who had sworn to do no harm have become such an integral part of murder and torture?’
She then answers this important question, identifying several vulnerabilities of doctors: hierarchy and socialisation, career ambition, ‘licence to …
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