HOUSTON (Jan. 29, 2008) - "Medical Ethics and the Holocaust," a 16-part lecture series that addressed how the practices of the Third Reich continue to influence modern-day medical ethics, filled more than 8,000 seats with members of the medical community including physicians and medical students throughout the State of Texas. Additionally, more than 13,600 individuals visited the lecture series' Web site, 121 applied for continuing medical education (CME) credit and 100 asked for membership information for the Museum.
The lecture series, which was offered at the Museum and via Webcast courtesy of The University of Texas, began in September with an opening night featuring three Nobel Laureates: James Dewey Watson, Ph.D.; Eric Kandel, M.D. and Ferid Murad, M.D., Ph.D.
Over the next five months, many of the world's most influential scientists, physicians, lawyers, experts, educators and authors offered their views as part of the series on some of the most challenging questions of modern medical, ethical, scientific, legal and public policy.
"Despite the fact that the Holocaust took place more than 65 years ago, its legacy continues to carry over into many aspects of modern medical ethics," said Dr. Sheldon Rubenfeld, who created the series and served as a chair of its steering committee. "With the advent of medical discoveries such as the Human Genome Project, which was designed to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases, it is the responsibility of the medical community to question the ethical consequences of such innovations. Can the Human Genome Project lead to discrimination based on DNA, therefore creating the premise for a perfect race? These types of issues need to be critically analyzed to make sure that we do create another horrific event similar to the Holocaust."
Topics including physician-assisted suicide, use of performance enhancing drugs, the lasting legacy of the Nuremberg trials, the Nazi influence on Hollywood, pre-implementation genetic diagnosis and the doctor-patient relationship were addressed throughout the series. The culmination of the lecture series was a discussion on assessing risk in patient care presented by George Noon, M.D., professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery and Assist Devices in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and Avraham Steinberg, M.D., director of the Center for Medical Ethics, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem and winner of the Israel Prize for his "Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics." Presented by the Torah Outreach Center of Houston (TORCH) and the Maimonides Society, the lecture emphasized the importance of treating the patient in his or her own interest (and not for scientific reasons) using Noon's surgery on Michael E. DeBakey, world-renown pioneer of cardiovascular surgery, as an example.
A companion exhibit, "How Healing Becomes Killing: Eugenics, Euthanasia and Extermination," also explored how the medical practices of the Third Reich continue to challenge modern-day medical ethics. The exhibition provided historical documentation of the role played by scientists, physicians and government officials and described activities at the six "euthanasia" centers where German and Austrian medical students murdered many of Germany's most vulnerable citizens.
The exhibit remains on view until Feb. 3 in the Mincberg Gallery at Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District. Admission is free.