Edmund D. Pellegrino, MD
Pellegrino ED. The Nazi Doctors and Nuremberg: Some Moral Lessons Revisited. Ann Intern Med. 1997;127:307-308. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-127-4-199708150-00010
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1997;127(4):307-308.
Exactly 50 years ago, the world learned of the moral depravity of the 20 Nazi physicians who were tried and convicted in Nuremberg for the part they played in the brutal human experiments at Auschwitz [1-4]. Ethicists have since expounded on the moral lessons to be learned from the Nuremberg Trials. So obvious these moral lessons seem now, and so gross the malfeasance, that it seems redundant to revisit them. Certainly we do not need to study such gross moral pathology that could never happen again.
That is a dangerous conclusion. Moral lessons are quickly forgotten. Medical ethics is more fragile than we think. Moral reasoning based on defective premises tends to recur in new settings. Not all of the Nazi physicians were mentally deranged-they believed they were doing the right thing. If we are to avoid even attenuated errors of the same kind, we are obliged to examine a few of their errors even now.
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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