The Nazi doctors is a book by Robert Jay Lifton that gives a good history and analysis of the crucial role believed to be played by German doctors in the Nazi genocide. It is one of the most important works done on medical ethics. It largely breaks through the borders of historiography to give a convincing account of psychological interpretation of crimes of National Socialism and third Reich. His work is a powerful reminder of the events that took place then and is a show of the monumental evil committed by some individuals who were supposed to heal and cure people. Lifton develops this work after long research and interviews of other Nazis, Nazis survivors and the Nazi doctors them selves. This book is thought to be compelling and is morally sensitive other than being admirably undaunted and provocative. It gives a clear understanding of the Nazi doctor's acts and why they performed such acts and is a major contribution to medical ethics and Holocaust study.
Robert Jay Lifton starts from the assertion that it was difficult to comprehend how medical personnel would embrace murderous behavior and Nazism's racist ideologies. Doctors played a visible, active and crucial role in the Nazi drive towards genocide. The book therefore tries to give an account how the medical doctors were pushed to becoming killers and how such educated and life accomplished people allowed them to commit such barbaric acts. Three medical doctors namely Ernest B. who appeared as one who passed for compassionate in the world of camp, Wirths Edward who was an icon of how an upright man allowed himself to be transformed into a murderer and Mengele Joseph presented as the classic Nazi fanatic. Robert Jay Lifton presents a psychiatric theory known as 'doubling' that he uses in giving explanations about the evil the doctors were committing. 'Doubling' a psychiatric theory suggested by Lifton involves an individual forming a second self which is considered more or less independent from the first and becomes the evil part of the self and hence allows the decent part to think and remain guiltless of all the evils committed. Lifton then examines and suggest the application of such a 'doubling' theory to the post Nazi age that he sees to be full of possibilities of all evils such as nuclear destruction and holocaust (Jefferson).
Stanley Milgram an assistant professor of psychology at Yale performed an experiment carried out in the shadow of holocaust which made him came up with a conclusion that most ordinary people in following instructions from doctors were ready to perform harmful procedures to innocent people. The experiment was done to determine man's or woman's willingness to do evil. Participants who were strapped in a chair and electrodes attached to their arms were learners and there were other participants who read out test questions to the learners and administered shock whenever the learner gave out the wrong answer (Cohen). The shocks administered to learners were not real and the participants were told to increase the shock for every wrong answer.
The participants instructed by scientists in the room to ignore the protest from the learners from pain they were allegedly undergoing and instead increase the voltage for each wrong answer given. Most of the participants obeyed the authority figure the scientist in the room and went on administering higher voltage even after increased protest from the learners in great pain (Cohen). This experiment shows the inability of many people to question authority. Authority figures like the government and the military are capable of wrong doings and therefore they should be questioned whenever they are giving orders that would undermine humanity (Greenberg). The study above suggests that ordinary Americans are willing to blindly follow orders and inflict pain on innocent people which should not be the case.
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