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Holocaust on Trial

Letter from Dr. Rascher Reproduction of a letter dated April 5, 1942 that Dr. Sigmund Rascher sent to Heinrich Himmler. The letter accompanied a report detailing the first findings from Rascher's high-altitude experiments on prisoners at Dachau.
If you feel that the Nazi results are tainted because of the way they were obtained, what if you knew that many deem information morally neutral?

Many scientists might argue that while the Nazi experiments were nothing short of bestial, their results can only be judged scientifically, not morally; data are neither good nor bad, they are just data. Even if scientists, journal editors, and others were to judge results on moral grounds, Dr. Eleanor Singer, editor of Public Opinion Quarterly, considers it "nonsense to talk about 'enforcing ethical standards' as though these were clear and agreed-upon." Until the scientific community reaches a consensus on the degree to which ethical concerns should govern the spread of scientific knowledge, Singer maintains, "I would argue that open dissemination, not censorship, affords the best chance for developing agreed-upon principles of what constitutes ethical research procedures, and of how potential conflicts among ethical principles, and between such principles and scientific goals, are to be resolved." [40]
"The most powerful argument in defense of the use of the data gathered by unethical methods is that the information gathered is independent of the ethics of the methods and that the two are not linked together. In essence, data are neither evil nor good."
—Dr. Robert Pozos, hypothermia expert [41]

"Perhaps the most intriguing question on which the issue of proper use turns is whether or not scientific data can acquire a moral taint. Common sense seems to indicate that a parcel of information about the physical world is morally neutral."
—Brian Folker and Arthur W. Hafner [42]

"We are talking of the use of the data, not participation in these heinous studies, not replication of atrocities. The wrongs perpetrated were monstrous; those wrongs are over and done. How could the provenance of the data serve to prohibit their use?"
—The late Dr. Benjamin Freedman, formerly a bioethicist at McGill University in Montreal [43]
Based on what you now know, do you think doctors and scientists should be able to use data from Nazi death-camp experiments?
Yes | No


References
40. Singer, Eleanor. "Commentary" (responding to "Ethics and Editors"). Hastings Center Report, Vol. 10, April 1980, p. 24.
41. Pozos, Robert S. "Scientific Inquiry and Ethics: The Dachau Data." In Caplan, p. 104.
42. Folker, Brian and Arthur W. Hafner. "Commentary" (responding to "Nazi Data: Dissociation from Evil"). Hastings Center Report, Vol. 19, July/August 1989, p. 17.
43. Wilkerson, Isabel. "Nazi Scientists and Ethics of Today." The New York Times, 5/21/89, p. 34.


Photo: National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

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