Human rights, ethics and the medical profession
In this paper we try to sketch out the major ethical challenges, failures and complexities in implementing ethical medicine in times of political and social turmoil – but also in more stable times. We begin with the aftermath of
Nazi medicine in the first half of the 20th century. The behaviour of the Nazi doctors included crimes against humanity that were also found in other states and political systems, including democracies. Receiving much less publicity (and virtually no accountability), the medical experiments carried out on a smaller scale by Japanese doctors during World War II taught also painful lessons. Other countries have also experienced genocide though with less medical involvement. But breaches of bioethics have also been documented in societies
and institutions not afflicted by war or by genocidal government policy. We should thoroughly reflect on the situations depicted here, which occurred during the Nazi regime and elsewhere even in more stable times, to help make sure they are never repeated.