Following World War II, leading Nazi doctors were brought to justice before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Twenty doctors were charged with War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. The Nuremberg trial of the doctors revealed evidence of sadistic human experiments conducted at the Dachau, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.
Since the Nuremberg trials, our society has had to confront the reality that the Nazi doctors were guilty of premeditated murder masqueraded as research. Professional modern medicine has had little difficulty condemning the Nazi doctors as evil men. But what is being said of the continued use of the Nazi doctors’ medical research? Many scholars are now discovering in reputable medical literature multiple references to Nazi experiments, or republished works of former SS doctors. These studies and references frequently bear no disclaimer as to how the data was obtained. In recent years several scientists who have sought to use the Nazi research have attracted and stirred widespread soul-searching about the social responsibility and potential abuses of science.
These incidents prompt a number of questions for the scientific community. Is it ever appropriate to use data as morally repugnant as that which was extracted from victims of Nazism? If so, under what circumstances?
2. THE ETHICAL DILEMMA
This paper addresses the serious ethical problems of using tainted data from experiments on patients who were murdered and tortured by the Nazis in the name of “research.” In particular this paper will address: the scientific validity of the experiments; the medical competence of the experimenters; the social utility in using the experimental data; case studies of proposed uses of the Nazi scientific data; the policy consideration involved when scientists use immorally obtained data; the condition and guidelines as to how and when the data is to be used; and the issue from the victims’ perspective.
This project was undertaken with the utmost caution. The reader should be aware that the moral climate in the Jewish community is unforgiving to those who find any redeeming merit from the Nazi horrors. Anyone who dares suggest the historical lessons which can be learned from the Holocaust, or from the victims’ suffering, risks being labeled a heretic or a sensationalist bent on distorting history for personal gain. Many in the community seriously fear that insights might replace condemnation of the Nazi evil.2
Furthermore, after reviewing the graphic descriptions of how the Nazis conducted the experiments, it became increasingly difficult to remain objective regarding its subsequent use. The difficulty of objectively analyzing the use of Nazi data was further complicated by the use of the amorphous term, “data.” “Data” is merely an impersonal recordation of words and numbers. It seems unattached to the tortured or their pain. Once cannot fully confront the dilemma of using the results of Nazi experiments without sensitizing one’s self to the images of the frozen, the injected, the inseminated, and the sterilized. The issue of whether to use the Nazi data is a smokescreen from the reality of human suffering. Instead of the word “data,” I suggest that we replace it with an Auschwitz bar of soap. This horrible bar of soap is the remains of murdered Jews. The image sensitizes and personalizes our dilemma. Imagine the extreme feeling of discomfort, and the mortified look of horror upon discovering that one just showered with the remains of murdered Jews. The ghastly thought of the Nazis melting human beings (and perhaps even one’s close relatives) together for a bar of soap precludes any consideration of its use. How could any civilized person divorce the horror from the carnage without numbing one’s self to the screams of the tortured and ravaged faces of the Holocaust? Indeed, it is only with this enhanced sensitivity to the suffering that one can accurately deal with the Nazi “data.”
Holocaust survivor Susan Vigorito found the use of the word “data” a sterile term. She was 3 ½ when she and her twin sister, Hannah, arrived at Auschwitz. They were housed for an entire year in Mengele’s private lab in a wooden cage a yard and a half wide. Without anesthetic, Mengele would repeatedly scrape at the bone tissue of one of her legs. Her sister died from repeated injections to her spinal column. She claims that she is the real data, the living data of Dr. Mengele.
Any analysis that fails to see realistically the Nazi data as a blood soaked document fails to comprehend fully the magnitude of the issue.
These serious misgivings forced the author to reflect and confront some difficult personal issues. May this disclaimer serve as a personal guarantee that the purpose of presenting the Nazi data for consideration was not to dilute nor detract from the enormous and unspeakable suffering of those who perished in, and survived from the death camps. The purpose of this project was to learn more about rather than replace, the Nazi evil.
3. THE NAZI EXPERIMENTS
The Nazi physicians performed brutal medical experiments upon helpless concentration camp inmates. These acts of torture were characterized by several shocking features: (1) persons were forced to become subjects in very dangerous studies against their will; (2) nearly all subjects endured incredible suffering, mutilation, and indescribable pain; and (3) the experiments often were deliberately designed to terminate in a fatal outcome for their victims.
The Nazi experiments fell into three basic categories: (1) Medico-Military Research; (2) Miscellaneous, Ad Hoc Experiments; and (3) Racially Motivated Experiments.
4. PROPOSED USE OF NAZI SCIENTIFIC DATA
6. POLICY CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING THE SCIENTIFIC USE OF MORALLY TAINTED DATA
29 Oct, 2020 | By