New paper asks: Was it ethical to consult a Nazi medical text to resolve a surgical puzzle?
When it comes to help during surgical procedures, is it ethical to consult medical illustrations compiled by Nazis and that are based partly on the bodies of people they executed? In a newly published case study, surgeons describe taking their question to historians, bioethicists, and experts on Jewish law. The illustrations were contained in the Pernkopf Topographic Anatomy of Man, a medical text compiled by the Nazi Eduard Pernkopf at the University of Vienna. Despite the textbook’s horrific origins, the illustrations are detailed and accurate, which presents a moral dilemma to those who still find the drawings — especially on peripheral nerves — useful. “I hate to say it, but the illustrations are beyond spectacular,” bioethicist and Rabbi Joseph Polak of Boston University, whom the surgeons consulted, told STAT.