Moral erosion: how can medical professionals safeguard against the slippery slope ?

Moral erosion: how can medical professionals safeguard against the slippery slope?

Jason Liebowitz
Correspondence to
Jason Liebowitz, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 690 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, MD 21202, USA; jliebow3@jhmi.edu

Abstract
The extensive participation of German physicians in the atrocities of the Holocaust raises many questions concerning the potential for moral erosion in medicine. What circumstances and methods of rationalisation allowed doctors to turn from healers into accomplices of genocide? Are physicians still vulnerable to corruption of their guiding principles and, if so, what can be done to prevent this process from occurring? With these thoughts in mind, the author reflects on his experiences participating in the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics program and offers a medical student’s perspective on the ethical issues encountered in clinical training and the practice of medicine.

Lifton R. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1986:22–44.
Friedlander H. The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995:22.
Kater MH. Doctors Under Hitler. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1989:125–6.
Hale C. Himmler’s Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2003.

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