‘Witness in White’ medical ethics learning tours on medicine during the Nazi era

Journal of Medical Ethics 47 (11):770-772 (2021)
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Abstract

During the Nazi era, physicians provided expertise and a veneer of legitimacy enabling crimes against humanity. In a creative educational initiative to address current ethical dilemmas in clinical medicine, we conduct ethics learning missions bringing senior physicians to relevant Nazi era sites in either Germany or Poland. The tours share a core curriculum contextualising history and medical ethics, with variations in emphasis. Tours to Germany provide an understanding of the theoretical origins of the ethical violations and crimes of Nazi physicians. Tours to Poland address the magnitude of the Nazi physician’s atrocities as well as displays of heroism by Jewish and righteous among the nations' physicians. Exemplary as well as shameful physician behaviour is analysed from an ethical perspective. A combination of unique educational methodologies maximises learning and personal growth, enabling participants to examine ethically complex clinical situations with extrapolation to modern-day medical practice. Learning is designed with relevance to contemporary medical ethics dilemmas such as beginning and end-of-life issues, providing tenets from which participants can develop as more ethical and informed physicians. Participant feedback confirms efficacy and worth of these growth-promoting ethics learning tours which should be expanded to other international groups and settings.

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