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Holocaust on Trial

Rudolph Brandt Rudolf Brandt, an SS officer and aide to Himmler, was found guilty of a host of war crimes, including conducting medical experimentation and killing tuberculosis-infected people. Sentenced to death, he was hanged on June 2, 1948.
What if you knew that many feel that using the data would make us the Nazi experimenters' moral accessories?

Many hold that making use of the data wrenched so brutally from helpless victims would not only validate the Nazi doctors' unthinkable acts, but also make us the victims' "retrospective torturers" (attorney Baruch Cohen) and them our "retrospective guinea pigs" (Dr. Harold M. Spiro, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University). [13 & 14] Indeed, Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth of Nations and an expert in Jewish medical ethics, felt use would only serve to further dishonor the victims [15], while the late Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Henry Beecher believed publishing unethically obtained medical data would cause a "far-reaching moral loss to medicine." [16]
"The idea behind the negative reaction now is that the Nazis were criminals; we are decent. That's not true. What we've done is not as evil, but it's in the ballpark."
—Dr. Arthur Caplan, bioethicist now at the University of Pennsylvania, commenting about uproar surrounding physiologist Robert Pozos' proposed use of Nazi data on hypothermia [17]

"The conduct of Nazi physician-scientists was barbarous, revolting, monstrous, devoid of any decency. Their research defiled human beings, medicine, science, and humanity. They dragged through bloody mud an honorable profession to which contemporary physician-scientists who now wish to make use of these results belong."
—Jay Katz, M.D., Yale University School of Law [18]

"Today some doctors want to use the only thing left by these victims. They are like vultures waiting for the corpses to cool so they could devour every consummable part. To use the Nazi data is obscene and sick. One can always rationalize that it would save human lives; the question should be asked, at what cost?"
—Eva Mozes Kor, survivor of Dr. Josef Mengele's twins experiments at Auschwitz [19]

"We must not add our numbers to the multitudes of onlookers who slept peacefully through the nights of anguished cries while dreaming their sweet dreams of a better tomorrow."
—Dr. Willard Gaylin, psychiatrist and former president of The Hastings Center, a biomedical ethics thinktank [20]
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

13. Cohen, p. 27.
14. Spiro, Howard M., M.D. "Let Nazi Medical Data Remind Us of Evil" (Letter to the Editor). The New York Times 4/19/88, p. 30.
15. Cohen, p. 30.
16. Beecher, Henry K. "Ethics and Clinical Research." The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 274 No. 24, 6/16/66, p. 1360.
17. Siegel, p. 1.
18. Katz, Jay. "Abuse of Human Beings for the Sake of Science." In Caplan, p. 265.
19. Kor, Eva Mozes. "Nazi Experiments as Viewed by a Survivor of Mengele's Experiments." In Caplan, p. 7.
20. Gaylin, Willard. "Commentary" (responding to "Nazi Data: Dissociation from Evil"). Hastings Center Report, Vol. 19, July/August 1989, p. 18.

Photo: Hedy Epstein, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

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