All about ideas…

When Medicine went Mad

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Watching the latest round of Nazi epithets shouted during town hall meetings causes me to seriously doubt the quality of American education. That in one generation, Americans have forgotten the facts of Nazi Germany and dare to compare U.S. health reform to it is appalling.

Much has been written about the MSNBC article written by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, in which he writes:

Limbaugh, Beck, Palin and other Holocaust deniers ignore the core racist evil of Nazism. They reach for preposterous analogies between counseling people about living wills and the forced, involuntary mass murder carried out in the name of racism in concentration camps.
When the right wing, in their distaste for the President’s push to reform a heath care system that even the American Medical Association and the pharmaceutical industry recognize has to be fixed, suggest that the disabled will be targeted, or that the elderly will be killed or find themselves without health care due to rationing by government bureaucrats as happened in Nazi Germany, they marginalize the gross evil that was the racial bigotry that fueled Nazi programs to euthanize, sterilize, experiment upon and torture people in places that were in no way connected to hospitals, clinics or nursing homes.
There is plenty to debate about health reform. But there is nothing to debate about the contemptible introduction of references, direct or oblique, to Nazi Germany. To do so is to engage in Holocaust denial. To do that is, as those Americans of the greatest generation who died or were injured fighting the Nazi menace well understood, inexcusable.

However, Caplan has become a renowned authority of medicine and medical ethics under the Nazi regime so perhaps his words should not be taken lightly by the uninformed. In Caplan’s article, he notes his father’s experience when, with the American Army, he arrived at Dachau.

My father’s war experience drew me to try and understand what had happened at Dachau. I have spent nearly 30 years trying to understand how the most scientifically and medically advanced nation of its day could have conducted the mass murder of so many Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians and pacifists. Contrary to what Limbaugh and other Holocaust deniers would have you believe, German medicine and science were not brought into the Nazi party once Hitler took power. They fueled the fire for what became Nazism with bigotry proffered as science.
What distinguished the doctors and scientists of Germany pre-Hitler was that so many of them were firm believers in racial hygiene — the view that the Aryan race’s very existence was threatened by inferior peoples such as Jews, blacks and Slavs. They felt the only way to protect their “race,” a concept that itself made little biological sense, was to prohibit reproduction with inferior people and, ultimately, to destroy them. It was racism masquerading as science that formed the basis for Nazi science and medicine right down to the gas chambers and ovens that my dad found himself staring at in 1945.

Germany’s national health care did not begin with Hitler and the Third Reich. But the Nazi’s seriously distorted and infected it with evil. According to Marc S. Micozzi M.D., in the November 1993 of The Freeman, Volume: 43, Issue: 11, Germany’s national health began decades earlier:

The German social insurance and health care system began in the 1880s under Bismarck. Ironically, it was part of Bismarck’s “anti-socialist” legislation, adopted under the theory that a little socialism would prevent the rise of a more virulent socialism.
By the time of Weimar, German doctors had become accustomed to cooperating with the government in the provision of medical care. The reforms of the Weimar Republic following the medical crises of World War I included government policies to provide health care services to all citizens. Socially minded physicians placed great hope in a new health care system, calling for a single state agency to overcome fragmentation and the lack of influence of individual practitioners and local services.

Under the early Weimar Republic, German medical advances far outstripped the medical communities in the rest of the western world, focusing on prevention of chronic disease. For example, showing the link between cancer and tobacco use. Yet, German doctors remained largely racist and easily joined the Nazi’s.

The complex political situation in Germany during the 1920s and early 30s only made the medical ethics problems worse. (see google books online – http://bit.ly/1kyyQK) Wikipedia states the following, beginning in 1919:

The Republic was soon under attack from both left- and right-wing extremists. The radical left accused the ruling Social Democrats of having betrayed the ideals of the workers’ movement by preventing a communist revolution. Right-wing extremists opposed any democratic system, preferring an authoritarian state like the 1871 Empire. To further undermine the Republic’s credibility, right-wing extremists (especially certain members of the former officer corps) also blamed an alleged conspiracy of Socialists and Jews for Germany’s defeat in World War I. […]

Further pressure from the right came in 1923 with the Beer Hall Putsch, also called the Munich Putsch, staged by Adolf Hitler in Munich. In 1920, the German Workers’ Party had become the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), nicknamed the Nazi Party, and would become a driving force in the collapse of Weimar. Hitler was named chairman of the party in July 1921. On 8 November 1923, the Kampfbund, in a pact with Erich Ludendorff, took over a meeting by Bavarian prime minister Gustav von Kahr at a beer hall in Munich. Ludendorff and Hitler declared a new government, planning to take control of Munich the following day. The 3,000 rebels were thwarted by 100 policemen. Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for high treason, a minimum sentence for the charge. Due to the trial, he served less than eight months in a comfortable cell before his release on the 20th of December 1924. While in jail, Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” which laid out his ideas and future policies. Hitler now decided to focus on legal methods of gaining power.

Contrary to the rantings of the far right, the Nazi’s were not socialists or “lefties”. On the contrary, they were on the far right, preferring a highly authoritarian government such had existed prior to WWI. The Nazi’s hated socialism, took great pains to exterminate socialists and communists, and to eliminate any socialist policies put in place during the brief Weimar Republic. To that end, Hitler wanted to abolish national health coverage, but his advisors convinced him to keep it because it was too well liked by the German populace. However, it wasn’t until Goebbels took over the system that the atrocities began.

That Americans willingly accept the twisted, hate-filled, conspiracy-theorist views of people like Limbaugh, Beck, and LaRouche without doing any due-diligence to determine the accuracy of their statements underscores how badly our educational standards need to be upgraded. And how poorly Americans are educated.


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  1. […] See original here: When Medicine went Mad « Epiphanyblog […]

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