Apr 3, 2016

The Central Role of Neuroscientists under National Socialism.

Front Neurol Neurosci. 2016 Apr 1;38:168-183.

Zeidman LA.


Neuroscientists played central roles in the victimization of colleagues and their patients during the era of National Socialism from 1933 to 1945. After helping dismiss Jewish and nonideologically aligned colleagues, German neuroscientists were among the physicians and researchers who joined the Nazi Party and affiliated groups in record numbers. Forced sterilization and then so-called 'euthanasia' of neurological and psychiatric patients were planned and executed by prominent German and Austrian neuroscientists. Other neuroscientists collaborated indirectly by using patients for unethical experimentation to discover the cause of multiple sclerosis or to try to induce epileptic convulsions in a hypoxic state. Some merely used neuropathological material from murdered patients for publications in scientific journals. In the totalitarian state, research funding and academic advancement were awarded to physicians engaged in eugenics research. Opportunism and ideologically tainted science without regard to medical ethics were the motivating factors for collaborating neuroscientists. Some German and Austrian neuroscientists tried to resist Nazi policies, although much more passively than their colleagues in German-occupied countries. French, Dutch, Norwegian, and Danish neuroscientists actively resisted the Nazification of their profession from the beginning and helped to save some patients and colleagues, at great personal risk. Many German, Austrian, Czech, and Polish neurologists were murdered in the Holocaust, and hundreds of thousands of neurological and psychiatric patients were sterilized or murdered in just 12 years. The Nazis used the 'successful' techniques developed in the 'euthanasia' programs to carry out the mass murder of millions in the Holocaust. Today's neuroscientists are obligated to learn of the ethical violations of their predecessors 70-80 years ago. No law will prevent abandonment of the basic principles of ethical patient care and professionalism that can occur in any totalitarian state, but neuroscientists can possibly prevent it.

© 2016 S. Karger AG, Basel.

PMID: 27035666 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]


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