The abuse of human rights by health professionals has a long history, write Jen Richardson and Daniel K Sokol
In most people's minds doctors are a well meaning bunch. Their goal is to help sick people. Although historians point out that doctors have not always succeeded,1 few contest that the desire to do good has motivated healers from the earliest days of humanity. Sometimes, however, the desire to do good is misguided or ignored altogether. This article examines the uncomfortable reality of human rights abuses by healthcare professionals and explores reasons for such violations.
The breach of human rights by health professionals is not a recent phenomenon. Doctors in Nazi Germany, for example, abused their research participants for what they believed was the greater good.2 They immersed participants in ice cold water to see how long pilots might survive if shot down over sea, and they deliberately inflicted wounds to simulate battlefield injuries to test antibiotics. The revelations of such abuses at the Nuremburg trials shocked the world. Not