Medical and the Holocaust

Eponyms and the Nazi Era: Time to Remember and Time for Change

Download PDF Print
Click on the icon on the upper right hand side for the article by Rael D. Strous, MD and Morris C. Edelman, MD.
IMAJ 2007: 9: March: 207-214
Abstract

Eponyms are titles of medical disorders named for individuals who originally described the condition. They also help us remember and identify the disorder. Medicine is replete with them, and changing them or eradicating them, for whatever reason, is not simple. But when there is a moral issue involved – for example, the research conducted under overwhelming unethical conditions – we believe it wrong to perpetuate and thus “reward” the memory of the individual for whom the disorder is named. The name of a syndrome should thus be discontinued if described by an individual whose research used extreme or who was involved in atrocities against humanity. Ethical considerations should be introduced into medical nosology just as they exist in patient care and research. This article details a group of notable eponyms, the names of which are associated with overt crimes of the medical community during the Nazi era, and provides alternative medical nomenclature. In addition, examples are provided of eponyms named after Nazi era victims, eponyms of those who protested such injustices, and eponyms of those who had to flee discrimination and death. These should be remembered and even strengthened, as opposed to those of the perpetrators, which should be obliterated. Since the greatest accolade a physician can earn is praise from his colleagues as expressed in an eponym entrenched in one's name, the medical profession should remove any honor given to physicians involved in crimes to humanity.