Preventing The Path to Nuremberg

As we wrote on 20 August 2022, a group of influential human rights and medical ethics advocates assembled in Nuremberg last weekend to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the infamous war crimes trials and inception of the Nuremberg Code.

In our continued call for submissions to The Truth Project, we are often reminded of the role that doctors, nurses and scientists played during The Holocaust. We are anxious for our colleagues who may be unaware that complicity in events of today undertaken in the name of public health, contravenes basic public health principles and places health care on the path towards another Nuremberg-level crisis. They have a legal liability risk, too.

In January 2021 The Lancet announced a Commission on Medicine and the Holocaust: Historical Evidence, Implications for Today, Teaching for Tomorrow (available for download below). The Commission acknowledges that Austrian and German physicians and medical organisations cooperated extensively with the public health policies of the Nazi regime, refuting the common misconception that it was only a few rogue practitioners. The three aims of the Commission are to examine the role professional clinicians and scientists played; identify the conditions which made medical practice vulnerable to abuse of power and unethical actions; and to evaluate existing medical training to reduce these vulnerabilities.

Reflection in professional practice is imperative at this critical time. At no time in New Zealand history has it been more important for all health professions to consider “the conditions under which physicians and scientists, despite existing bioethical regulations, are prepared to harm patients or research participants or to use their professional authority to devalue social groups and populations“. An awareness of the events which preceded, resulted in, and emerged from the trials at Nuremberg offer essential concepts for reflection with many parallels to current day events.

Watch: Nuremberg Code Commemorated

The live event, 6.5 hours long, is well worth the time for those who can spare it. Children’s Health Defense have shared some of the speeches separately on their Rumble channel. We recommend hearing Dr Tess Lawrie and Shabnam Palesa Mohamed, both from World Council for Health; Dr Mary Holland, President of Children’s Health Defense; and the half hour panel discussion.

The highlight was Holocaust survivor and human rights activist Vera Sharav, making a clear and passionate case for the medical and scientific community today, to raise and hold awareness of the professional significance of the Nuremberg Code for us all. She warns of a diabolical agenda in motion, and the need to understand what is happening so that we can safeguard humanity.

Unless all of us resist, “never again” is now.
Click the photo to be re-directed to the Children’s Health Defense page to watch the
75th anniversary event of the Nuremberg Code.

In keeping with this theme, Professor Julie Ponesse, philosopher and professor of ethics specialising in bioethics and ancient philosophy, presented to the World Council for Health weekly General Assembly on 22 August 2022.  Her presentation Nuremberg, Willful Blindness and What We Can Do Moving Forward is beautifully conveyed. She argues that the past two years have seen historically unprecedented violations of personal medical rights, largely due to human vulnerabilities such as moral blindness, a need for social acceptance and the phenomenon of incremental creep.

Of the ten principles of the Nuremberg Code, Professor Ponesse names three as being of particular relevance today:

  1. Principle 1: Voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential;
  2. Principle 9: The human subject is free to exit the experiment at any time;
  3. Principle 10: The researcher must be prepared to end the experiment if it is likely to cause injury, death or disability.

In discussing ways to move forward from this catastrophe, Professor Ponesse emphasises the need to understand the failures of others and of ourselves, with compassion and humility.

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