Jewish Values and Medical Professional Accountability

Six Values Never to Silence: Jewish Perspectives on Nazi Medical Professionalism

Jacob M. Kolman and Susan M. Miller


An ideological case study based on medical profession norms during the Third Reich will be used to exemplify the importance of diversity in the manifestations of professional ethics. The German professional medical community banned their Jewish colleagues from treating German citizens. This included legally mandated employment discrimination and outright censure which led to a professional ethic devoid of diverse voices. While the escalation to the T-4 program and medicalized genocide was influenced by many causes, the intentional, ethnocentric-based exclusion of voices was an important contributing element to the chronicled degradation of societal mores. For illustration, six core Jewish values—life, peace, justice, mercy, scholarship, and sincerity of intention—will be detailed for their potential to inspire health-care professionals to defend and protect minorities and for readers to think critically about the role of medical professionalism in Third Reich society. The Jewish teachings highlight the inherent professional obligations physicians have toward their patients in contrast to the Third Reich’s corruption of patient-centered professionalism. More fundamentally, juxtaposing Jewish and Nazi teachings exposes the loss of perspective when a profession’s identity spurns diversity. To ensure respect for persons in all vulnerable minorities, the first step is addressing professional inclusion of minority voices.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2018;9(1):e0007