Holocaust Medical Lessons

The Holocaust has taught society many lessons and now the Holocaust Museum Houston is exploring how those lessons apply to medicine today. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker repor.

Medicine continues to search for cures and to develop new technologies for treating diseases.ξ But those technologies often lead to ethical questions.

"I would put it this way, I would say that at the moment that our technology has far exceeded our ability to deal with the ethics of the technology."

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Baylor College of Medicine Doctor Sheldon Rubenfeld has organized "Medical Ethics and the Holocaust."ξ He says technology today have more power than what was available to society leading up to the Holocaust.

"And the question arises will we do or think in a similar way that most of the world thought 100 years ago.ξ I don't think there's any worry or concern or danger that the U.S. will do anything equivalent to what the Third Reich did.ξ But none the less, there's always a danger with enhanced knowledge and genetic power we can start discriminating against people we consider inferior, disabled, or too great a cost to society, that's the danger."

Rubenfeld says the human genome project is just one example.

"And the ability to identify genetic defects in people and what they will pass on to their off-spring.ξ What do you do with that information?ξ Suppose you find people with genetic disease that is genetically transmitted, do you prevent those people from reproducing.ξ When they give birth to children do you not provide them with insurance because they are going to be very expensive."

Joseph Spinner is a first year medical student taking part in a lecture series.ξ He says it's expanding his education as he looks to possibly go into pediatrics.

"When you go through the medical school curriculum it's almost entirely, 100% science, and you learn clinical procedures as well but you don't learn about the kinds of situations you may have to deal with as a doctor."

Medical developments have the best of intentions, but Spinner says without an open discussion of ethics, questionable practices can develop.

"As physicians, why not.ξ If we can get rid of all disease, if we can engineer that none of our future babies, that all of our future babies, none of these babies will ever develop heart disease, they're not develop insulin-resistant diabetes.ξ But then we discuss who can really afford these kind of procedures, is it only going to be the rich."

The next lecture is today talking about how more protections are needed for medical information.ξ The exihibit "How Healing Becomes Killing" runs through the end of the month. More information is available at KUHF dot org.ξ Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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