Ashley K. Fernandes
Medicine and law are intimately connected to one another, and, since the professionalization of medicine in the United States and Europe in the latter half of the 19th century, even more so. One discipline that connects both is moral philosophy; for both law and medicine involve reason and the will, directed toward the good of the person. Thus, the story of the Holocaust is a tragedy that unfolded because of the corruption of moral philosophy first, and medicine and law second.
Why is this important? The reason is that there are those who argue against the contemporary application of lessons learned from the horrors of Nazi medicine. Some say that “Nazi medicine” was not real medicine or science: We cannot even call what the Nazis did “medicine,” since medicine contains within it an assumption of rigor and beneficence … But this argument is circular. It defines science as “good science,” (relegating anything unethical to “bad science” or “pseudoscience”) when in fact these very safeguards were born out of abuses from what was then the most scientifically advanced country in the world. Medicine then, as now, is not somehow immune from this abuse, as the horrific postwar abuses at Tuskegee and elsewhere make clear.