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February 9, 1990

What the Nazis Called 'Medical Research' Haunts the Scientific Community to This Day

JAMA. 1990;263(6):791. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440060021005

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FIFTY YEARS have passed since the beginning of World War II, and still the effects of National Socialist (Nazi) medicine linger.

"Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg [war criminal trials beginning in 1946, with a score of Nazi physicians as defendants] Code," a conference sponsored by Boston (Mass) University's schools of medicine and public health, leaves little doubt that the so-called experiments conducted in wartime Germany and conquered countries before midcentury have placed their mark on today's medical research. These inhumane experiments by Nazi physicians left thousands of prisoners dead and many others physically and emotionally scarred.

In sentencing the approximately 80% of medical defendants found guilty, judges of the Nuremberg tribunal also issued a code designed to protect humans participating as subjects in medical research. Although since modified by other codes, this is the Nuremberg Code that often is cited.

Anything Worth Using?  While most results of Nazi medical experiments