Doctors Gone Bad: Physicians, Dictatorships, and Warrior Cultures

Martin Donohoe


During World War 2, the guiding Hegelian philosophy of Nazi Medicine was one of rational utility, meaning “what is useful is right.” Nazi Medicine was essentially an arm of state policy, with a focus on racial purity, beginning with the sterilization of 370,000 “misfits and undesirables”; followed by the involuntary euthanasia of 70,000 elderly, chronically-ill, and mentally-disabled persons; and culminating in the large-scale genocide of over 6 million Jews, Catholics, gypsies, and others. The Final Solution was based on Social Darwinism, a movement with disturbing parallels in the American and British eugenics movements. Individual worth was conceived of in economic terms. Propaganda focused on obligations to the state. Doctoring the nation became more important than doctoring individuals. There was a significant focus on preventive medicine and public health, including anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol campaigns, reductions in environmental toxins, and organic farming, all designed to improve the Aryan stock. Medical journals were relatively silent about ongoing abuses. Movies and textbooks reinforced Nazi ideology.

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Department of Family and Social Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center
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