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Holocaust on Trial

Auschwitz Children Eight of the many hundreds of children whom Nazi doctors experimented upon at Auschwitz.
What if using the Nazi data could set a dangerous precedent, sanctioning unethical human experiments and possibly encouraging similarly deplorable acts?

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 beings?
"[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. [9]

"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 [10]

"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 guinea pig."
—Eva Mozes Kor, survivor of Dr. Josef Mengele's twins experiments at Auschwitz [11]

"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 [12]
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

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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