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The Toll of Living

By Tanis Mui


The current century that we now live in is nothing short of a scientific miracle. The modern age has pushed the boundaries of human limitations, and humanity’s historic breakthroughs in science have radically changed the world. What we once thought to be impossible, is now possible. The question is, how is it that humanity was able to obtain the information necessary to be where it stands today. Though modern genetics and medicine is progressing at an astonishing rate, it’s important that we take a step back, and consider how we got as far as we have.


Though many of the medical marvels that we have today seem like miracles, they certainly weren’t all achieved through miracles. In fact, much of what we have today can unfortunately be attributed to inhumane experimentation, to which some people considered “justified” at the time of these experiments.


Take for instance, Nazi Germany during World War 2, the most deadly war ever fought in history. Nazi Germany was infamous for its use of concentration of camps, which was first used to hold political opponents of the Third Reich, but eventually was used to hold different ethnic groups, especially Jews. Inmates in these camps were then subjected to inhumane experimentation to further the objectives of Adolf Hitler. There were three main goals of these experiments: Improve medical science, help military personnel survive, and racial hygiene. These goals were intended to be achieved at all costs, regardless of the sacrifices required.


Concentration camps all across Germany conducted their own research, hoping to fulfill their twisted ambitions. One such camp was Neuengamme, which was operational from 1938-1945. Dr. Kurt Heissmeyer, a scientist in Neuengamme, was known for using inmates to find treatments for tuberculosis, an infection in the lungs. Nazi scientists would inject the tubercykisus bacteria into the lungs of subjects to test for natural immunity, causing hundreds of innocent people to die. This cruel procedure was all for an effort to develop a vaccine against the bacterial disease, and many of those who survived and died from the procedure were operated on to gain more knowledge.


Ravensbruck, a concentration camp that was operational from 1939-1945, conducted experiments involving gas gangrene, which was an infection that spread among German soldiers on the battlefield. To put gas gangrene simply, bacteria enter injuries without blood supply, and release toxins that kill tissue within the body, eventually causing death. Scientists at Ravensbruck would test the effectiveness of drugs and sulfanilamide, by actually simulating these battle-like wounds on prisoners. The prisoners would then be infected with the bacteria, causing life-long physical trauma, and even death.

Nazi Germany used science to progress their ideology of racial hygiene, which was a term used to label the country’s eugenics at the time. The country was fully bent on creating a pure and powerful society with a master race of people called the Aryan Race, which were people who had pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes.


As a result, scientists were fascinated with the biology of twins. Twins were an effective and efficient way to quickly expand the Aryan Race, and so twins were especially valued in the country’s experiments. Josef Mengele, also called the “Angel of Death'', was a German scientist that was most infamous for his research on twins. Autopsies were very common, and scientists often conducted eye experiments to unlock the secrets of their blue eyes, which caused tremendous pain, and even permanent blindness. Once enough data was extracted from a subject, the subject would be quickly killed, and samples were sent to other facilities to be studied, ending the long and treacherous life of that twin.


In light of these crimes against humanity, the Nuremberg Code was written, which is a guideline of principles that scrutinized unethical scientific experimentation. The Nuremberg Code is still in effect today, and has even been brought up in the controversy surrounding COVID-19 vaccines, credible or not. However, the aftermath of these grotesque experiments isn’t something that’s eased down. Modern scientists now ask: should humanity use research from Nazi experiments?


Doctors such as Andrew Conway Ivy have completely written off the data, claiming that they have “no medical value”, and that the means to obtain the data was too inhumane. However, many research institutions have incorporated the information into their own research, arguing that the medical knowledge could actually be used to save lives, and that not using the information would be “just as unethical”. This stance does have credibility, as the experimental data on hypothermia from Nazi scientists have been used to treat hypothermia patients.


Regardless, the experiments that were mentioned were just a tiny fraction of the scientific atrocities committed against innocents. The Nazi’s conducted hundreds of more experiments, and the sheer volume of unethical experiments conducted by other countries is unprecedented. In truth, some of the science that we have today can’t all be attributed to miracles, but in fact through dark methodology, and cruelty. The only thing a society can keep doing is to push forward and learn from their mistakes, in order to make sure evil like this can never happen again.


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