'Euthanasia' in Nazi-Germany and the Doctor's Responsibility

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


The Holocaust was the realization of the racial ideology of National Socialism. One pillar of this ideology was the Nazi eugenics and ‘euthanasia’. The implemention of Sterilization Laws (1933) for patients with a genetic disorder was the first step in the degradation of the physical integrity of persons. The ‘euthanasia’ program was carried out from 1939 until 1941 on children with physical deformities and on patients with a mental disease. The purpose of the so-called ‘mercy killing’ was the ‘destruction of life unworthy of life’. Although Jews were not eligible for the ‘Gnadentod’, the organization of the ‘euthanasia’ program was used to initiate the systematic extermination of the Jews.
How would I have acted as physician-caregiver under the National Socialist regime? We develop this question considering the judgments on the doctors of several courts starting from the Nuremberg trials. During the process there were doctors who invoked the principle of beneficience. By means of analyzing the philosophy of Karl Jaspers and Hannah Arendt, we point out the moral dilemmas of citizens and doctors under a totalitarian regime bearing in mind the issues of eugenics and euthanasia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law. March 7-10, 2022 Porto, Portugal
Subtitle of host publicationProgram and Book of Abstracts
Place of PublicationPorto
PublisherInternational Chair in Bioethics. WMA Cooperating Centre
Number of pages1
ISBN (Print)978-989-54596-7-4
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2022
EventBioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law: International Chair in Bioethics 14th World Conference - Porto Palacio Hotel, Porto, Portugal
Duration: 7 Mar 202210 Mar 2022


ConferenceBioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law
Internet address


  • euthanasia, medical ethics, psychiatry


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