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February 23, 1990

Perversions of Medical Technology-Reply

JAMA. 1990;263(8):1066-1067. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440080038011

In Reply.—  A few paragraphs are insufficient to list all the historical atrocities that involved chemical, biological, or radioactive agents. Some of the perpetrators have been brought to justice, as in the Nuremberg trials. Others, for example the Japanese scientists believed to have conducted biological warfare experiments on human subjects during the same era as the Third Reich,1 have never faced charges. And who will ever prosecute the accessories to the crime— Germans who knew but kept silent, Britons and Americans who heard the reports but turned their backs on the victims?Technology of any type can be used for either good or evil. Historical surveys can serve as a warning to physicians about potential abuses of their research. More important, they should challenge us to respond to actual, contemporary abuses, despite the "political pressure that can be brought to bear on medical inquiry."2"When allegations of