TITLE

The Doctor's Dilemma: The Utilitarian Medical Ethics of Nazi Physician Karl Brandt

AUTHOR(S)
Schultz, Joshua J.
PUB. DATE
May 2013
SOURCE
University of Toronto Medical Journal;May2013, Vol. 90 Issue 4, p176
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
Before World War II German physicians and scientists were responsible for major advances in medicine. The actions of doctors in the Nazi system were an aberration of this legacy; however, not all Nazi doctors operated in an ethical vacuum. This paper examines the doctors' trial at Nuremberg in 1946. This paper draws attention to the utilitarian medical ethics of the Nazi doctor Karl Brandt and discusses how utilitarianism still informs medical practice today. The Hippocratic Oath was cited by the prosecution at the Nuremberg doctors' trial as part of the common law of medicine. Brandt and his defense lawyer Dr. Robert Servatius countered by arguing that Brandt was acting in the best interests of the state. He and Servatius argued that the morality of German doctors in the Nazi system represented an alternate medical ethics to that practiced in western democracies. In the end Brandt was found guilty of negligence due to the presence of non-German citizens in the T-4 "euthanasia" program of which Brandt had been in charge. "Brandt's trial highlights utilitarianism in medical ethics whereby physicians are responsible for determining the cost that treatment of the individual represents to the community. The community sets limits and physicians must work within those limits, but in order to act as a bulwark to malevolent state power as existed in Nazi Germany, physicians have a duty to advocate for life and treatment whenever possible.
ACCESSION #
91654214

 

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