“First do no harm” is a term often associated with the Hippocratic Oath. Although the association is technically incorrect, the Hippocratic Oath is nonetheless an oath that Doctors adhere to.
The Hippocratic Oath is an oath of ethics historically taken by physicians. It is one of the most widely known of Greek medical texts. In its original form, it requires a new physician to swear, by a number of healing gods, to uphold specific ethical standards. The oath is the earliest expression of medical ethics in the Western world, establishing several principles of medical ethics which remain of paramount significance today. These include the principles of medical confidentiality and non-maleficence. As the seminal articulation of certain principles that continue to guide and inform medical practice, the ancient text is of more than historic and symbolic value. Swearing a modified form of the oath remains a rite of passage for medical graduates in many countries, and is a requirement enshrined in legal statutes of various jurisdictions, such that violations of the oath may carry criminal or other liability beyond the oath’s symbolic nature. The oath is attributed to the Greek doctor Hippocrates and.
The actual reference to no harm in the oath is really much stronger then ‘first do no harm’ It says the following
“I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment, and I will do no harm or injustice to them. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion. But I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art. I will not use the knife, not even, verily, on sufferers from stone, but I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein.
Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free. And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession, as well as outside my profession in my intercourse with men, if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets.”
Although during the Nazi regime the physicians did not sign up to the oath, on a human level it makes only sense that you try to make a patient better rather then harm them. But several Nazi physicians, although they were ‘human beings’ they only acted inhumanely.
A few months ago I asked the question “Is it acceptable to use data from Nazi experiments?” I think that is a difficult question to answer. Initially I would say no, but what if some of that data was used to save the live of someone in my family. Or what if it was used to find a cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis , something I suffer from? Then the answer would probably be yes.
One thing that I don’t understand that the names of some of these evil men were still used as eponyms to describe some syndromes or disorders, long after the war and some are still being used, despite the fact that they were renamed. Below are just some examples where evil was allowed to live on.
Asperger syndrome- Replacement Term: Autism spectrum disorder.
Hans Asperger “managed to accommodate himself to the Nazi regime and was rewarded for his affirmations of loyalty with career opportunities. He joined several organizations affiliated with the NSDAP (although not the Nazi party itself), publicly legitimized race hygiene policies including forced sterilizations and, on several occasions, actively cooperated with the child ‘euthanasia’ program.
Beck–Ibrahim disease-Replacement Term: Congenital cutaneous candidiasis
Yusuf Ibrahim (May 27, 1877 in Cairo, Egypt – February 3, 1953 in Jena, Germany), also known as Yusuf Bey Murad Ibrahim, was a physician and pediatrician. He was responsible for the description of congenital cutaneous candidiasis, originally known as Beck-Ibrahim disease. The discovery of his association with the Nazi euthanasia program during the World War II resulted in an effort to rename this disease. The clinic for child and adolescent medicine at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena also chose to change its name from Kinderklinik Jussuf Ibrahim after his Nazi past was uncovered.
Cauchois–Eppinger–Frugoni syndrome-Replacement Term: Portal vein thrombosis
Hans Eppinger was born in Prague, the son of the physician Hans Eppinger. His grandmother was Jewish.Eppinger conducted cruel experiments on Romani prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp in order to test the potability of seawater. … Eppinger committed suicide with poison on 25 September 1946, one month before he was scheduled to testify in Nuremberg.
Clara cell-Replacement Term: Club Cell
Max Clara owed his career advancement in no small way to his membership in the Nazi party and active support of its programme. In his 1937 paper, Clara acknowledges that the sample he based his work on “was obtained from a prisoner executed by the Nazi ‘justice system
Hallervorden–Spatz disease-Replacement Term: Pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration.
Julius Hallervorden readily admitted that 697 brains he investigated during the Nazi period were from victims of euthanasia. It is alleged that he was present at the killing of more than 60 children and adolescents in the Brandenburg Psychiatric Institution on 28 October 1940. He was reported to have removed brain material himself from euthanasia victims in a nearby extermination (euthanasia) center.
Hugo Spatz was a German neuropathologist. In 1937, he was appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research. He was a member of the Nazi Party, and admitted to knowingly performing much of his controversial research on the brains of executed prisoners. Along with Julius Hallervorden.
Reiter’s syndrome-Replacement Term: Reactive Arthritis
Hans Conrad Julius Reiter was a member of the SS. He participated in medical experiments performed by the Nazis. After the Nazis were defeated, he was arrested by the Red Army in Soviet Union-occupied Germany and tried at Nuremberg. During his detention, he admitted to knowledge of involuntary sterilization, euthanasia, and the murder of mental hospital patients in his function as the gatherer of statistics and acting as “quality control” officer, and to helping design and implement an explicitly criminal undertaking at Buchenwald concentration camp, in which internees were inoculated with an experimental typhus vaccine, resulting in over 200 deaths. He gained an early release from his internment, possibly because he assisted the Allies with his knowledge of germ warfare.
After his release, Reiter went back to work in the field of medicine and research in rheumatology. He died at age 88, in 1969, at his country estate in Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe.
Seitelberger disease-Replacement Term: Infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy
“Franz Seitelberger, a Vienna neurologist and former member of the SS, although never involved in the planning or execution of NS-euthanasia, benefited from it scientifically during the post-war period. Examining the brains of 3 ‘euthanasia’ victims from the Landesanstalt Görden in Brandenburg, Seitelberger earned his PhD in 1954 under the supervision of Julius Hallervorden.
Spatz–Stiefler reaction-Replacement Term: Paralysis agitans reaction
Under Spatz’s control and direction, the brain research institute collaborated with the killing institute at Brandenburg-Gorden, obtaining hundreds of brains from the mentally ill of all ages.
Van Bogaert–Scherer–Epstein syndrome-Replacement Term: Cerebrotendineous xanthomatosis
“During the war, Scherer]worked at the Neurology Institute in Breslau, Silesia. Here Scherer was directly involved in neuropathological brain analyses of over 300 Polish and German children euthanized in the nearby Loben Psychiatric Clinic for Youth.
Wegener’s granulomatosis-Replacement Term: Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
The facts which were uncovered do not prove Dr Friedrich Wegener guilty of war crimes. However, the evidence suggests that Dr Wegener was, at least at some point of his career, a follower of the Nazi regime. Dr Wegener’s mentor, Martin Staemmler, was an ardent supporter of the racial hygiene. In addition, our data indicate that Dr Wegener was wanted by Polish authorities and that his files were forwarded to the United Nations War Crimes Commission. Finally, Dr Wegener worked in close proximity to the genocide machinery in Lodz.
Although many of the terms were replaced, some of the original terms are still commonly used. The most common is probably the Aspergers syndrome.
I know there is quite a lot of data in this blog. I do believe it is important to understand that by using these eponyms, we are still keeping the evil alive.