, Volume 32, Issue 12, pp 2049-2052
Date: 17 Nov 2006

The Nuremberg doctors' trial: the 60th anniversary

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Any in-depth reflection on the ethics and regulation of clinical research starts at Nuremberg, 60 years ago. It was then that the nature, limits, constraints, and acceptability of experimentation on human beings were extensively and publicly presented, discussed and challenged.

On 6 December 1946, the US Military Tribunal One convened its first session at Nuremberg, in the very same Palace of Justice where the International Military Tribunal has held its sessions a few months earlier (Fig. 1). Twenty-three physicians and scientists were accused of war crimes, committed on vulnerable populations and inmates of concentration camps between 1933 and 1945. Together with the euthanasia program, barbaric medical experiments were for the first time extensively documented and made widely known. But after the judgement was read out and sentence pronounced (seven death penalties, eight imprisonments and seven acquittals), an erroneous message seems to have been delivered to the world, or at least ...

This article is discussed in the editorial available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00134-006-0468-z
Pictures from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum: http://www.ushmm.org/research/doctors/index.html