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March 5, 1997

Lessons From Nuremberg: Ethical and Social Responsibilities for Health Care Professionals, Health Care Organizations, and Medical Journals

Author Affiliations

Atlanta, Ga

JAMA. 1997;277(9):711. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540330033022

In his article on the social responsibilities of health professionals, Dr Sidel1 concludes, "But these organizations too must be guided by fundamental principles that require them to devote their work not only to the interests of their members or the dictates of government but also work for international justice, health, and peace." This is wrong. The fundamental purpose of any health care professional is to work in the interest of his or her patients. For their organizations to suggest changing this, no matter how noble the cause, will probably be counterproductive and lead to unintended consequences.

The notion that health professionals should have a purpose other than delivering care allows leaders to manipulate them. If the leader is Adolf Hitler, there are obviously terrible consequences as Sidel so aptly points out. Moreover, the idea that world peace can be advanced by the input of health professionals is suspect. It