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March 5, 1997

The Nuremberg Code, German Law, and Prominent Physician-Thinkers

Author Affiliations

Zentrum für Medizinische Ethik Ruhr Universität Bochum, Germany

JAMA. 1997;277(9):709. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540330031015

To the Editor.  —In his article on the Nuremberg Code, Dr Katz1 argues that the prosecution of Nazi physicians in the Nuremberg military trials was burdened by the "absence of preexisting and widely recognized written rules for human experimentation" and that "medical codes of ethics existent at the time of the Nazi atrocities did not address consent and other safeguards for human subjects." The Nazi physicians not only committed crimes against humanity, but also violated existing German laws.2 The Reich Regulation Concerning New Therapy and Human Experimentation3 required that "new therapy may only be applied if consent or proxy consent has been given in a clear and undebatable manner following earlier appropriate information" and made the chief physician of a medical institution personally responsible that "principles of medical ethics and the rules of the medical arts and sciences, both in its design and in its realization," be