Psychiatry and political-institutional abuse from the historical perspective: the ethical lessons of the Nuremberg Trial on their 60th anniversary

Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry
Francisco López-MuñozAhmed Okasha

Abstract

Sixty years ago at the Nuremberg Trials, 23 Nazi leaders were tried as war criminals, in what was known as "The Doctors' Trial". This trial exposed a perverse system of the criminal use of medicine in the fields of public health and human research. These practices, in which racial hygiene constituted one of the fundamental principles and euthanasia programmes were the most obvious consequence, violated the majority of known bioethical principles. Psychiatry played a central role in these programmes, and the mentally ill were the principal victims. The aim of the present work is to review, from the historical perspective, the antecedents of the shameful euthanasia programmes for the mentally ill, the procedures involved in their implementation and the use of mentally ill people as research material. The Nuremberg Code, a direct consequence of the Doctors' Trial, is considered to be the first international code of ethics for research with human beings, and represented an attempt to prevent any repeat of the tragedy that occurred under Nazism. Nevertheless, the last 60 years have seen continued government-endorsed psychiatric abuse and illegitimate use of psychoactive drugs in countries such as the Soviet Union or China, and even ...Continue Reading

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