Bioethics Blogs

Confronting Medicine in the Holocaust & Beyond

By Hedy S. Wald

Galilee, Israel, May 7-11, 2017. I was privileged to be at the Second International Scholars Workshop on “Medicine in the Holocaust and Beyond.” Why so meaningful?  Why so needed? 140 purposeful, passionate scholars from 17 countries delved into the past history of medicine at its worst in order to inform the future.  From 1933-1945, presumed healers within mainstream medicine (sworn to uphold the Hippocratic Oath) turned into killers (1).  Yes, medical ethics in Nazi-era medical school curricula existed, yet included “unequal worth of human beings, authoritative role of the physician, and priority of public health over individual-patient care”(2).  In Western Galilee College, (Akko), Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Health Sciences (Safed), and Galilee Medical Center and Ghetto Fighters’ Museum, (both in Nahariya), historians, physicians, nurses, medical and university educators, medical students, ethicists and more gathered to grapple with this history and consider how learning about medicine in the Holocaust can support healthy professional identity formation with a moral compass for navigating the future of medical practice with issues such as prejudice, assisted reproduction and suicide, resource allocation, obtaining valid informed consent, and challenges of genomics and technology expansion (3)…

The conference, in essence, served as a lens for the here and now, reinforcing my contention (and others’) that history of medicine in the Holocaust curricula including confronting the Nazi physicians’ and scientific establishment’s euthanasia of “lives unworthy of life,” forced sterilizations, horrific experimentation on their victims, and medicalized genocide (leading to the destruction of a third of the European Jewish population and many others) is a “moral imperative” in healthcare professions education (1,4).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.