What if using the Nazi data could set a dangerous precedent, sanctioning
unethical human experiments and possibly encouraging similarly deplorable
Eight of the many hundreds of children whom Nazi
doctors experimented upon at Auschwitz.
A brief review of history indicates that the evil perpetrated by the Nazi
doctors is one of degree, not of type. White South African physicians falsified
medical reports of blacks tortured or killed in prison. From the mid-1950s to
the early 1970s, New York University researchers infected mentally retarded
children with hepatitis in order to track the course of the disease and search
for a cure. In 1963, doctors at the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in
Brooklyn, New York, injected 'live' cancer cells into 22 chronically ill and
debilitated patients; they did not inform the patients that they were
participating in an experiment completely unrelated to treatment of the disease
for which they were hospitalized. These cases may not be as heinous as the Nazi
experiments, but if researchers cite and use results from the latter, might
that not give tacit encouragement to further unethical studies using human
"[U]sing information from the death camps might be seen as sanctioning the use
of results from current unethical research and thus encourage more of it."
—Marcia Angell, M.D.
"Doctors in general, it would seem, can all too readily take part in the
efforts of fanatical, demagogic, or surreptitious groups to control matters of
thought and feeling, and of living and dying."
—Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide, after listing numerous instances of cases in which
doctors throughout the world have conducted evil acts in the name of
nationalism or racism
"To declare the use of the Nazi data ethical, as some of the American
scientists and doctors advocate, would open a Pandora's box and could become an
excuse for any of the Ayatollahs, Kadafis, Stroessners, and Mengeles of the
world to create similar circumstances whereby anyone could be used as their
—Eva Mozes Kor, survivor of Dr. Josef Mengele's twins experiments at Auschwitz
"While using such data could save lives in some situations ... in a much larger
context it could lead to a way of thinking that would condone taking some lives
in order to save others."
—A reporter paraphrasing comments made by Dr. Judith Bellin, an Environmental
Protection Agency toxicologist, about using data from Nazi phosgene experiments
9. Angell, Marcia, M.D. "The Nazi Hypothermia Experiments and Unethical
Research Today." New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 322 No. 20,
5/17/90, p. 1462.
10. Lifton, p. xii.
11. Kor, Eva Mozes. "Nazi Experiments as Viewed by a Survivor of Mengele's
Experiments." In Caplan, p. 7.
12. Shabecoff, Philip. "Head of E.P.A. Bars Nazi Data in Study on Gas." The
New York Times, 3/23/88, p. 1.
Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Government Printing Office
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