Criminal proceedings against twenty-three Nazi physicians and administrators began on December 9, 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany before an American Military Tribunal headed by Brigadier General Telford Taylor, Chief of Counsel for War Crimes. The defendants were charged with willing participation in war crimes, criminal conspiracy, membership in a criminal organization, and crimes against humanity.

The tribunal sought to prove that the accused actively planned and established a program of euthanasia which systematically resulted in the deaths of those they deemed "unworthy of life," including—but not limited to—the mentally retarded, the institutionalized mentally ill, and the physically impaired.

It was further alleged that "scientific" experiments were performed on hundreds of thousands of concentration camp prisoners without their consent, mostly Jews, Poles, Russians, and Gypsies.

After nearly 140 days of proceedings, the testimony of 85 witnesses, and the submission of nearly 1500 documents, the verdict was announced on August 20, 1947. Sixteen defendants were found guilty. Seven were executed on June 2, 1948.

The details of the proceedings were alternately lurid and compelling. The daily elucidation of inhuman Nazi behavior in places like Dachau, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen float down through history to us as primary examples of man's unspeakable inhumanity to man.

As a result of the trial, the tribunal decided it was necessary to codify absolutely the rights of human research subjects. The judges recognized that the traditional Hippocratic Oath and the hallowed physician's maxim primum non nocere (first, do no harm) were not enough to absolutely protect the rights of test subjects, especially when the subjects were held against their will in a time of war.

The ten principles that follow were intended to show the world that the scientific research the Nazis practiced lay outside the traditional doctor-patient relationship and was therefore subject to a much stricter set of ethics.

The physician's Hippocratic Oath and the absolute protection of human rights under the law were merged by the American Military Tribunal into

The Nuremberg Code

  1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.

    This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment.

    The duty and responsibility for ascertaining the quality of the consent rests upon each individual who initiates, directs or engages in the experiment. It is a personal duty and responsibility which may not be delegated to another with impunity.

  2. The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.

  3. The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment.

  4. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.

  5. No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects.

  6. The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.

  7. Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death.

  8. The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons. The highest degree of skill and care should be required through all stages of the experiment of those who conduct or engage in the experiment.

  9. During the course of the experiment the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end if he has reached the physical or mental state where continuation of the experiment seems to him to be impossible.

  10. During the course of the experiment the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probable cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgment required of him that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.

The Nuremberg Code was the most important document in the history of medical ethics and the first to ensure the rights of medical subjects. It absolutely delineated what is permissible behavior on the part of those administering medical tests on human beings.

Interestingly, these points were codified AFTER the trial. The Nuremberg Code itself had no bearing on the case against the twenty-three defendants, nor has it ever been brought to bear against former Nazi physicians who were brought to America by the OSS, and later the CIA, and who performed essentially many of the same experiments. On Americans.



Wild Bill Donovan
Operation Overcast
the Stars of Project Paperclip
burning crosses in the Fatherland
doing drugs for fun and profit
the CIA wants YOU!
When is a monkey's orgasm more than just fun and games?
The Johnny Appleseed of LSD
Sidney Gottlieb, the real-life "Q"

George Washington, Spymaster
the first American Intelligence failure in New York
Thomas Knowlton

Hamid Karzai
The Bureau and the Mole


Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10, Vol. 2, Nuremberg, October 1946 - April 1949. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1949). pp 181-182.

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