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Holocaust on Trial

Dzido At the Nuremberg "Doctors Trial," Dr. Leo Alexander points at scars on the leg of Polish survivor Jadwiga Dzido, who endured sulfanilamide experiments at Ravensbruck concentration camp.
What if you knew that such data could not be obtained today?

Hypothermia expert Dr. Robert Pozos had immersed hundreds of volunteers into ice water in the years after he founded the University of Minnesota's Hypothermia Laboratory in 1977. (He is no longer affiliated with the university.) But he never let a participant's temperature drop more than 3.6°F (i.e., below 95°F). Unburdened by even the slightest sense of humanity, the Nazi hypothermia experimenters, on the other hand, let their victims' interior body temperatures drop to 79.7°F before attempting to revive them. Most died an excruciatingly painful death as a result. However, some did revive, and the Nazis found that rapid rewarming in hot water proved the most effective way to revive them. In an ethical world, such data would not exist, but they do exist and could benefit humanity. Should they simply be lost to science?
"Dr. Rascher, although he wallowed in blood ... and in obscenity ... nevertheless appears to have settled the question of what to do for people in shock from exposure to cold ... The final report satisfies all the criteria of objective and accurate observation and interpretation ... The method of rapid and intensive rewarming in hot water ... should be immediately adopted as the treatment of choice by the Air-Sea Rescue Services of the United States Armed Forces."
—Maj. Leo Alexander, U.S. Army doctor who served as aide to the chief counsel of the Nuremberg war-crimes trial and authored an oft-cited 1945 report on the Dachau hypothermia experiments. While Alexander later concluded the results were undependable, other medical experts, most recently hypothermia researchers Robert Pozos and John Hayward, have claimed that the data are useful [36]

"The goal of science is to produce new knowledge. If, during unethically conducted experiments, one valid scientific fact is produced, should that information be used as it has been, referenced in the literature as it has been, or just discarded?"
—Jay Katz (Yale University School of Law) and Robert S. Pozos (hypothermia expert) [37]

"I don't want to have to use this data, but there is no other and will be no other in an ethical world."
—Dr. John S. Hayward, hypothermia expert at University of Victoria University, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, on why he used Nazi hypothermia data in his research [38]

"To justify the use of Nazi data in a research article, I would expect scientists to use the findings only in circumstances where the scientific validity is clear and where there is no alternative source of information."
—Kristine Moe, journalist [39]
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

36. Siegel, p. 1.
37. Katz, Jay and Robert S. Pozos. "The Dachau Hypothermia Study: An Ethical and Scientific Commentary." In Caplan, p. 137.
38. Moe, p. 5.
39. Ibid.

Photo: National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

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