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Nuremberg Trials and Its Effects on Human Rights

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To what extent the Doctor’s Trial held in Nuremberg established a precedent in human experimentation and human rights movement?

Table of Contents A. Plan of Investigation………………………………………………………………………3 B. Summary of Evidence………………………………………………………………………...4-7 C. Evaluation of Sources…………………………………………………………………………….8 D. Analysis……………………………………………………………………………9 E. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………10 F. Bibliography………………………………………………………………………11 G. Appendix

A. Plan of Investigation
This investigation assesses to what extent was the significance of the Doctor’s Trial in establishing a precedent for human experimentation and the advancement of the human rights movement. The body of evidence would contain all the events that lead to a change of the view of human experimentation and rights. The researcher evaluated the process in which the Doctor’s Trial at Nuremberg marked an example to human rights today and how the Nuremberg Code helped exercise the decisions made at the Nuremberg trials. Primary sources as the partial transcript of the Doctor’s trial were used to evaluate the contribution of the verdicts made at the trials to human rights. Documents will be analyzed in regards to their origin, purpose, value, and limitations in order to properly evaluate the evidence.

B. Summary of Evidence
On December 9, 1946, an American military tribunal opened criminal proceedings against twenty-three leading German physicians and administrators for their willing participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Officially called United States of America v. Karl Brandt et al, the trail was the first of twelve similar proceeding against Nazi doctors held by the United States following World War II.
During the reign of the Third Reich, Nazi physicians planned and enacted the “Euthanasia” Program – the systematic killing of those they deemed “unworthy of life”. The victims include all kind of people. There were the mentally retarded, the institutionalized mentally ill and physically impaired. After the Final Solution was established, many of the victims also included Jews, Poles, Russians and Gypsies. Afterward the experiments were realized; most died or were permanently crippled as a result.
The Doctors’ Trial was a procedure that lasted almost 140 days. The trial involved the testimony of 85 witnesses and the submission of almost 1,500 documents. The final verdict was dictated on August 20, 1947 – sixteen of the doctors were found guilty and seven were sentenced to death. The execution was on June 2, 1948.
Brigadier General Telford Taylor was Chief of Counsel, during the Doctors Trial. In Taylor's own words, from the opening statement by the prosecution: "The defendants in this case are charged with murders, tortures, and other atrocities committed in the name of medical science. The victims of these crimes are numbered in the hundreds of thousands. A handful only is still alive; a few of the survivors will appear in this courtroom. But most of these miserable victims were slaughtered outright or died in the course of the tortures to which they were subjected. For the most part they are nameless dead. To their murderers, these wretched people were not individuals at all. They came in wholesale lots and were treated worse than animals."
During the final verdict of the Doctors’ trial, the court established rules that were obligatory to follow in any case of human experimentation, this rules were called the Nuremberg Code. The code consists of 10 principles that were formulated in an attempt to establish standards and guidelines for permissible medical experimentation with humans. They were not identified as a code of medical ethics but rather appear as part of the final judgment, where it is claimed that they are derived from the “natural law” of all people. (Michalczyk, J. J.)
The Nuremberg Code was the first guideline to human experimentation. It was considered as a prototype of many later codes that were intended to assure the research involving human subjects would be carried out in an ethical manner. (Code, N. (1949). The Nuremberg Code. ) The ten principles were: 1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. 2. The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature. 3. The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment. 4. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury. 5. No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects. 6. The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment. 7. Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death. 8. The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons. The highest degree of skill and care should be required through all stages of the experiment of those who conduct or engage in the experiment. 9. During the course of the experiment the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end if he has reached the physical or mental state where continuation of the experiment seems to him to be impossible. 10. During the course of the experiment the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probably cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgment required of him that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.

C. Evaluation of Sources
Medicine, Ethics, and the Third Reich edited by John J. Michalczyk is a powerful accusation of the collapse of the ethical system during the Nazi or National Socialist regime. It examines the moral and ethical interrogations associated with the already mentioned Nazi regime. This document presents a view of what happened and what the future implications are. Michalczyk established acknowledge of the German medical community of their support to the National Socialist movement by the human experiments ordered by the highest members of the Nazi party. The value of this document lays that is was published on 1994. The range of time between the Nuremberg trials and the publishing of the documents gives the author a more broad perspective and information to handle. The author of the book is American. This may be seen as a biased point of view when it is not. Through the reading there are many bioethical questions raised that appeal to our common senses.
The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code edited by George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin discuss the ramifications and sources of the atrocities committed by the Nazi physicians and researchers during World War II. The book debates issues such as science and jurisprudence, including ethics and moral and how are they are directly linked to human experimentation. Also, it includes the impact on today’s international human rights movement. The value of this book lies in the examples presented; like a moving account by a survivor of the Mengele Twin Experiments and contributors like the chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal.

D. Analysis
The Doctors’ trial was the first time selected people were judge instead of a whole organization. The trial was the start of a long line of human rights movement. The outcome was an example of the first time justice had ever done something about human rights movement. The Nuremberg code was established for this purpose. It would protect humans everywhere, independently of their race, sex or religion to be a victim of human experimentation. Michalcyzk said: “that the principles were not identified as a code of medical ethics but rather appear as part of the final judgment, where it is claimed that they are derived from the “natural law” of all people”. Maybe he was right, but no one ever stated these principles as a law that we are obligated to follow. The Doctors’ trial helped established this code as an irrefutable compromise.
The physicians that were trialed didn’t acknowledge their commitment to the Nazi Party. By experimenting with Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, homosexuals, etc. they were contributing to the largest genocide of the 20th century. In the two documents mentioned, both raise bioethical and moral questions concerning human experimentation. These questions were probably the reason why the Nuremberg code was created, to attack a problem everyone was turning their eye to.

E. Conclusion
In conclusion, the Doctors’ trial gave a guideline to human experimentation and rights. The outcome of the trial was the Nuremberg code that leads to the creation of later codes that will protect people from being victims. The doubts concerning the moral and ethical problems during WWII were answered by the creation of the code. The most important thing to highlight is that after the trial the defendants were executed and this proved to be an instance for others to follow the rules established.

F. Bibliography * Michalczyk, J. J. (Ed.). (1994). Medicine, ethics, and the Third Reich: Historical and contemporary issues. Rowman & Littlefield. * Code, N. (1949). The Nuremberg Code. Trials of war criminals before the Nuremberg military tribunals under control council law, (10), 181-182. * U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10. Nuremberg, October 1946 - April 1949. Washington D.C.: U.S. G.P.O, 1949-1953. * Annas, G. J., & Grodin, M. A. (1995). The Nazi doctors and the Nuremberg code. J. Pharmacy & Law, 4, 167-245.

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