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Home / Science / BBC – Future – Is It Right to Use Nazi Research When It Can Save Lives?

BBC – Future – Is It Right to Use Nazi Research When It Can Save Lives?



In search of a glimpse of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this week, Washington DC news station WTOP published a brilliant biography of "brilliant" rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, buried in 1977 in nearby Alexandria was quickly withdrawn. The reason? It had not been mentioned that von Braun was a Nazi.

There are few areas of scientific progress that are not affected by immoral or unethical behavior at any given time in their history. Physics, biology, zoology, medicine, psychology, vaccine science, anthropology, genetics, nutrition, engineering: in all these areas there are discoveries that have been made under circumstances that can be described as unethical or even illegal. How should we use this knowledge? Especially if it could be of great benefit to civilization and even save lives?

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Von Braun's participation in the Apollo program was not an outlier. More than 1

20 German scientists and engineers joined him, including SS officer Kurt Debus (who became director of the Launch Operations Center in Nasa) and Bernhard Tessmann (constructor of the colossal vertical assembly building in what is now the Kennedy Space Center).

They were among the 1,600 scientists recruited by spies at the end of World War II as part of Operation Paperclip – all protected from prosecution, safely transferred to the United States, and allowed to continue their work.

The Allied forces also grabbed other Nazis for innovation. Nerve toxins such as tabun and sarin (which would boost the development of new insecticides and weapons of mass destruction), the antimalarials chloroquine, methadone, and methamphetamine, as well as medical research into hypothermia, hypoxia, dehydration, and more, were performed on human experiments in concentration camps.

Chipboard, forms of synthetic rubber and the refreshing drink Fanta were also developed by the Germans under National Socialist rule.

However, this was anything but a one-time injection of unethical research into the scientific record. From 1932, researchers at Tuskegee University in Alabama followed the progression of syphilis in hundreds of poor black men for 40 years – none of whom ever received any diagnosis or treatment, although the antibiotic penicillin, which could cure the disease, was available at the time.

In a related study, US physicians in the 1940s deliberately infected unsuspecting patients with sexually transmitted infections to investigate the diseases. The experiments were conducted in Guatemala.

In the 1940s, US doctors deliberately infected unsuspecting patients with sexually transmitted infections to investigate the diseases Unfortunate experiment, "hundreds of women with precancerous lesions remained untreated to see if they contracted cervical cancer. Details of the study became known only after two women's health aspirants, Sandra Coney and Phillida Bunkle, expressed their opinions. The New Zealand study hoped to test theories about the value of early intervention, but a later study by Judge Silvia Cartwright criticized the treatment of patients by the physicians who performed the study.

The polio vaccine – and many other medical advances beside it – owes its existence to human cells taken from Henrietta Lacks without their knowledge or consent, and who saw no compensation for their commercialization. The cell lines grown from these initial samples have been used in myriad research on drugs, toxins, and viruses, as well as the study of the human genome.

In the 1950s, Robert G. Heath pioneered the use of electrodes that were implanted into the genome brain, in one case trying to rewire the sexual orientation. Today, similar technology is being used to treat epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and Elon Musk's recently announced nerve tip.

It is not controversial to argue that these experiments should never have taken place. But now they have, what should one do with the information they have generated?

"The basic intuition is that if information was received unethically, we will use that information and then become complicit in the past," says Dom Wilkinson, medical ethicist at the University of Oxford. This is a widely held view, even among those who use such insights.

Kristine Moe, who wrote the bioethics journal The Hastings Center Report in 1984, reports a conversation with John Hayward, a leading hypothermia expert at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, who used Nazi data in his studies. "I do not want to use this data, but there is no other and there will be no one else in an ethical world," he told her. "I rationalized it a bit. But not using it would be just as bad.

But Hayward's experience was unusual.

"I think it's important to say that these results very rarely provide important information on their own," says Wilkinson. "Scientific information is largely like puzzle pieces: they fit

Wernher von Braun's contributions to the Apollo space program may have been significant, but it is impossible to say if Nasa, without his help and the knowledge he gained while working on the Nazi V-2 missile program In the meantime, the results of the Tuskegee and the unfortunate experiments did not drastically change our understanding of syphilis or cancer: the data are not so useful to us as ours Nose and put them into practice to help patients today.

"There are not many other observational studies that see, wa It does not happen if you do not treat cervical cancer, "says Wilkinson. "But even if you said that we do not use that little bit of science, we would not be in a different understanding of cervical cancer."

It may be tempting to believe that unethical medical practices are a matter of medicine In the past, this jumble of modern medicine with immorality in the mid-twentieth century was an aberrant gaffe, and the further we move away from that time, the less the work done will be relevant to science. We could say that our entire data collection is now off the board and our discoveries are ethical.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

One concern with using the data is that it expresses the attitude that this research was in order and encourages future researchers – Dom Wilkinson

Many clinical studies based on Guatemala's syphilis studies Bis To-day, rules are being adopted in developing countries for the same reasons: the rules are looser, and the risk of bad press due to negative outcomes is reduced. A report published in 2008 by the Center for Research on Multinational Corporations revealed details of many of these unethical attempts, including in India, Nigeria, Russia, Argentina, and Nepal. She revealed the unregistered deaths of 14 women in Uganda during an experiment with the HIV-mediated drug nevirapine.

It also revealed that eight patients in Hyperabad, India had died during an anticoagulant drug streptokinase – and none of them knew they were part of an experiment.

Bad Example

The urge to do something good with data – even if they were won in an unethical way – goes along with its own problems. In addition to bearing the weight of complicity, does the use of the findings suggest that current and future researchers are better off asking for forgiveness than asking for permission?

"Knowledge has something very special that is irreversible. You can not know something, "says Wilkinson. " One concern with using the data is that they express an attitude that this research was in order and encourage future researchers -" History will judge me positively. "We do not want that do not want to promote unethical research. "

Wilkinson highlights the recent case of the Chinese researcher who announced in 2018 that he had created the first genetically-conditioned babies." It's a truly impressive example. It looks like he's motivated by the particular fame associated with being the first, "says Wilkinson.

This view is confirmed by the China Health Commission, which found that the researcher "illegally pursued research in pursuit of personal glory and gain". Like other people who use attention-grabbing crime to get known, we should strive not to tolerate their behavior or give them the promotion they seek.

But even if we can separate the actions of people from the science they produce If we condemn one while doing good to another, we still are not out of the moral labyrinth. What happens if the problematic research is not completed yet – but is possible?

This is the dilemma that results from a controversial collection of blood samples from more than three million Scots currently owned by the NHS Greater Glasgow and the Clyde Health Board.

] Samples were collected as part of a routine "heel-stick" test performed on all newborns to test a range of genetic conditions. From 1965 to 2003, however, parents were never asked to leave their blood samples, which means that the entire database is legally dubious.

As the oldest and largest collection of Guthrie maps (as the records are known), the database provides an unusually broad overview of the country's genetics, making it a unique resource for medical researchers on the question of how they were collected There is currently a moratorium on conducting searches using the cards.

"Such situations are not simple, ethical or unethical." – they involve competing ethical concerns. All of this has to be taken into account, "says Anne Wilkinson, program officer of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, who wrote about the Guthrie charts in Scotland. Using the database could bring important social benefits, she says.

"However, this is not just about consent, privacy, risks to people associated with the use of their personal information, and respect for people's beliefs about their use.

Health authorities in Scotland are now conducting consultations with researchers, ethicists, patients and citizens on what should happen to the Guthrie cards. One possibility is to allow those who wish to oppose participation in a map search. However, it is not an easy task to show that you have obtained adequate retroactive clearance from three million people.

The attempt to draw lies in human nature Some good from bad situations. Even in the Warsaw Ghetto, according to Moe, Jewish doctors made meticulous notes on the health of their fellow citizens. These data were smuggled out and later published as a groundbreaking study on the effects of hunger disorders.

"A decision to use the data should not be made without remorse or without recognition of the incomprehensible horror it produced," she writes of Nazi research. "We can not imply approval of the methods. However, we should not be blinded by the inhumanity of the experiments that something good can be saved from the ashes. "

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