Nazi Experiments


Nazi Experiments Essay, Research Paper

The Validity of Nazi Hypothermia Experimentations:

The Question of Ethics Versus Scientific Knowledge.

This essay deals with medical experiments conducted by the Nazis during the Second

World War. Many types of experimentation occurred in the Third Reich, they include

euthanasia, hypothermia, high pressure, and genetics. However, most of the experiments carried

out in Nazi Germany are viewed as little else than another method of torture imposed upon

involuntary subjects. The question can be posed: Do any of the Nazi?s medical experiments

contain valid scientific information, and if so, should this information be used? Due to the broad

field of Nazi experimentation, I will explore this question dealing with, mainly, one type of Nazi

experimentation – hypothermia.

Overall, these medical experiments contained no medically valid or scientifically valid

information. Speculation has appeared as to the validity and ethical aspect of the experiments

that were performed. Should any of the information that was obtained from the from these

experiments be used considering the circumstances in which the information was gathered?

Several debates arise concerning the ethical use, as well as the scientific use of these

experiments. This will be addressed later in the essay.

According to Baruch Cohen, three main types of experiments existed in the Third Reich,

which includes Medico-Military Research, Miscellaneous – Ad Hoc Experiments, and Racially

Motivated Experiments. (no pp). Hypothermia experiments fall into the category of Medico-

Military research due to the use of the information that was recorded from these experiments

dealing with medical or military advances. Miscellanies – Ad Hoc experiments dealt with

research that had no scientific purpose, poison experiments are an example of these experiments.

Racially Motivated experiments which dealt with experiments dealt with genetic and racial

interests, sterilization experiments fell into this category.

The use of hypothermia experiments originated from the need for new technology.

During the Second World War, air warfare had not been widely used, this led to a need for

science to quickly attempt to make improvements upon the standards of air warfare.

Hypothermia experiments were conducted in large vats of freezing liquid. This simulated the

conditions of the North Sea, where main pilots died after descending into the cold waters.

Another method to conduct hypothermia experiments involved strapping subject to a stretcher

and to leave them outside – often naked – in sub-zero conditions. In the course of this essay, we

will refer to the latter method of the hypothermia experiments.

These experiments were similar to other types of experiments performed in Nazi

Germany because of the inhumane methods employed to gain the results of the experiments.

Even though the hypothermia experiments began out of a need to advance an aspect of air

warfare, an element of torture always accompanied the research techniques. This was caused by

Nazi physicians having the attitude that the subjects of these experiments were destined to die in

the concentration camps. Therefore, by performing experiments on them, the doctors believed

that they may actually be aiding these people by bringing death faster. As an example of the

torturous experiments being used by some Nazis concerns two Russian men, that were believed

to have made a comment to the SS officer conducting the experiment. These two men withstood

the temperature in the freezing solution longer than previously recorded, when this was noted, the

SS officer raised the temperature slightly in order to prolong their pain; this led to their

death.(Rosenberg. no pp).

Hypothermia experiments carried out in the Third Reich differ slightly from other

experiments that were performed. The important difference is the presence of a scientific

purpose present in the experiment. Research experiments, such as hypothermia and pressure,

began out of a need for innovation, while racially motivated experiments, such as sterilization

and euthanasia, originated from anti-Semitic movements.

Medical research was performed in the hope that a discovery would establish the Third

Reich as a world leader. The methods of experiments that were conducted in Germany during

this time cannot be justified; the subjects were treated in a sub-human fashion, and if the Nazi?s

medical experiments are viewed in today?s standards, these experiments would not be excusable

if performed on animals. The inhumane experiments were conducted because the government

wanted to advance the Third Reich, there was very little accurate scientific emphasis placed upon

problems. Nevertheless, hypothermia experiments may contradict the general condemnation of

the medical experiments in Nazi Germany by offering a relatively valid scientific source. Thus,

is the data gathered from hypothermia experiments valid both scientifically and ethically?

Some scientists have argued that even though the practices of using such methods would

violate any laws involving medical norms and expectations of the Hippocratic oath, much of the

results from the hypothermia, and consequent rewarming experiments, are relevant. If the

concentration camp experiments on hypothermia did not take place, this information would not

have been gathered and employed elsewhere. Baruch Cohen explains that the use of Nazi

hypothermia experiments by current researches, such as Robert Pozos – the Director of the

Hypothermia Laboratory at the University of Minnesota – would aid to fill the gaps of current

research. Pozos would not allow a subject?s core body temperature to fall below thirty-six

degrees. The only experiments that have allowed a human?s core body temperature to fall below

thirty-six degrees were those conducted at Dachau. By using the Nazi?s results from

hypothermia experiment, Pozos can compile a more accurate conclusion on the effects of

hypothermia on the body.

Some critics have originally condemned the usage of the data collected, but on further

investigation have concluded the relevance to the medical community. This is illustrated by

Pozos in reference to Andrew Ivy. Ivy was the American scientist that evaluated the observations

of Nazi medical experiments for the Nuremberg trials. On first inspection, Ivy found the

experiments to have no scientific value, and were nothing more than atrocities of the war.

However, after re-evaluation, Ivy noted that some of the information from the hypothermia

experiments held relevance, he is one of the first scientists to consider the data accurate.

For more than two thousand years physicians have sworn to practice by the guidelines set

in the Hippocratic Oath. Even though the validity concerning most of Nazi experimentations has

been recorded as containing no medical or scientific purpose – excluding the study of psychology

- the debate over the results of the hypothermia experiments is still in question. The debate over

the scientific value of the hypothermia experiments is the most important aspect of the validity of

Nazi experiments. If the observations are not accurate, they will not be used, thus ending the

ethical problems which arise when this data is used.

?The scientific method is a procedure of research in which a problem is identifies,

relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated, and the hypothesis is empirically

tested.?(Webster?s 703). This method is the universal basis for scientific research, this is

relevant to note when exploring Nazi hypothermia experiments. The scientific value of the

Nazi?s experimentation is doubtful, this is due to the need to constantly test scientific hypotheses.

Scientific method dictates that a theory cannot be proved totally correct. It is this part of science

that denotes that experiments should constantly occur to support the validity of an experiment.

Here we encounter the first obstacle of the possible acceptance of Nazi medical experiments as

being valid.

Under medical ethics, human rights laws, and even animal rights laws, the conditions that

these experiments were conducted in cannot be reproduced. Therefore, the hypothermia

experiments cannot be reproduced. ?Since the experiments cannot be repeated, Robert Pozos

states, the data can never be considered accurate.?(102). Pozos continued that ?even if the

experiments had not been duplicated, that does not disprove their accuracy.? (102). This

contradictory explanation concerning the validity of hypothermia experiments illustrates that

Pozos?s poor attempt to justify these experiments in terms of individual findings, from the whole

of Nazi experimentation.

Another justification that should be considered in deciding if the hypothermia

experiments are useful to modern science is the possibility that results from experiments

conducted in the Third Reich have been fabricated. Propaganda in Nazi Germany was extremely

common, therefore caution should be taken when analyzing the results of the experiments.

According to Robert Berger, ?the experimental approach was disorganized and haphazard. The

work did not follow an orderly protocol essential for an acceptable scientific inquiry.?(111)

Furthermore, ?there is evidence of falsification and suggestion of fabrication, while many

conclusions are not supported by the data presented.? (Berger 111). Cohen suggests that

fabrications of the Nazi?s hypothermia experiments were due to political pressures placed on the

experimenters to produce hypothermia results. If this was not accomplished, the experimenters

were severely punished.

Hypothermia research had its beginnings in the Third Reich. Techniques for the reversal

of hypothermia were also pioneered in the death camps. Yet, the intention of these experiments

was not only acquiring knowledge on this condition, but for the advancement of the Nazi Regime

and, at times, a form of torture. The validity of the scientific aspect of hypothermia experiments

is an extremely debatable topic. If the results of the entire hypothermia experiments are being

examined, then the amount of significant data in very minimal. However, as Katz and Pozos

point out, information taken from individual results on the experiments has supported knowledge

of hypothermia that existed before the Second World War.(136). Also, some of the results from

these experiments sparked not only controversy as to their significance, but initiated further

investigations into the observations, especially concerning the rewarming of the body. As with

the pervious mention of Ivy, Nazi hypothermia experiments were not viewed objectively due to

the other atrocities that were a part of the Third Reich. This may possibly be the only positive

repercussion arising from the Third Reich during the Holocaust.

A conclusion concerning the scientific validity of information taken from is difficult to

determine. The main point of this scientific debate is whether the information is considered as a

part of all experiments conducted in Nazi Germany, or as a separate entity. As a whole, the Nazi

doctor?s experiments held no scientific importance, and could not be applied to any other

scientific endeavor. Yet, some individual aspects have sparked some advances in medical

procedures. For example, in these experiments it was observed that if the rewarming method

used that was raised the body?s core temperature slower, then the chance of death was greatly

diminished. These individual aspects of the hypothermia experiments contain scientific value,

albeit somewhat small.

As stated, some of the results from the hypothermia experiments give accurate insight

into the scientific aspect of the possible use of the experiments. However, a conclusion whether

or not the research is valid and should be used cannot be fully reach without examining the

ethical view of the experiments. The Nuremberg Trails, which occurred in 1945, explore the

accountability of many of the Nazi physicians who conducted medical inquiries. Of the twenty-

two men and one woman, fifteen were convicted of atrocities against humankind. This point

cannot be ignored in the examination of the justifications in using some of the results from

experiments that these people conducted.

Science is amoral. This may be the only determinant to the ethical use of Nazi based

experimental data. Ethically, the manner of conducting the experiments dictates that the results

should not be used. Scientifically, the hypothermia experiments contained some value – this is

the only exception in terms of other Nazi experiments . It is this exception that can, and should

be, applied to any appropriate research or theory; caution concerning the significance of the

amount of importance placed upon these experiments should also be taken into account. With

this stipulation, hypothermia experiment conducted in the Third Reich hold some reliability. Yet

this is merely the scientific argument over the use of the experiment?s observations.

Millions of people were murdered during the Holocaust, this is a known fact, there is no

dispute as to the loss of lives, this period is viewed as a historical tragedy. If valuable scientific

information that was conducted during this time, why does society simply regard this information

as the only ?good? from evil? What good, if any, should we derive from this era? This is the

ethical approach to the medical research that took place in the Third Reich. Due to the methods

used to gain the scientifically valid observations, should these observations be considered

morally or ethically valid as well?

Under the Hippocratic Oath, a physician is sworn to aid the ?sick according to their

ability and judgement, but never with a view of injury or wrongdoing . . . they will abstain all

intentional wrongdoing and harm.? (Lifton iii). The Hippocratic Oath stands for the morals of

the medical community for over two thousand years. Nazi medical experiments are in violation

of not only the Hippocratic Oath and the general morality of society. An ethical debate cannot

take place unless some of the observations from hypothermia experiments are considered

valid.(Freeman, 148).

When examining the ethical validity of the hypothermia experiments, the point should be

considered that medical ethics has not drastically changed since the Second World War. With

this perspective, would this data be ethically and morally accepted by society if these experiments

were performed today? The answer is an obvious no; human rights, animal rights, and medical

ethics would all protect society from the results of this data from being used. Cohen puts this

into perspective when he posses the possibility of using a bar of soap made from Jewish people

from Auschwitz. He condemns any observations that were derived from human experiments,

while asking the question: Can society forget the atrocities that occurred to obtain this data?

The ethical validity of Nazi experiments is a sensitive topic. In many ways, the morality

of using this data is broken down to the individual in comparison to society. Nazi medical

experiments hold some valid scientific data, even though the methods that were used cannot be

justified. Some of the data collected can aid in the development of new means to save lives – as

in the case of hypothermia. If this data can possibly aid to save lives, why not use the data to

develop something ?good?, from methods that are essentially immoral?

The Holocaust is associated with brutality, genocide, and the destruction that can occur

from a totalitarian system. These horrific images are justly placed, and the medical experiments

conducted are a testimony to these images. Relevance as to the legitimacy of any experiments

performed in the Third Reich usually reinforces negative connotations. However, in the case of

hypothermia and rewarming experiments, the conclusion can be reach that the results of the

experiment are applicable to further investigation. Recognition of some relevance to the medical

community must be given to the Nazi doctors, albeit the ends do not justify the means.

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