The Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial: Looking Back 70 Years Later

In: International Criminal Law Review

On 20 August 1947, the United States Military Tribunal condemned sixteen persons in Nuremberg for crimes committed in the name of science in several concentration camps. Moving away from a dichotomous stance delineating true science/false science, the judges were able to outline ten ethical and legal principles to regulate all clinical experiments, which were subsequently known as the Nuremberg Code. Where most of legal commentaries focus on the mere reading of these ten principles, this paper will highlight some of the steps in the legal journey of the American judges. We will see that, unfortunately, they failed to address one of the most difficult issues in clinical trials and human experimentation: the almost unavoidable context of exploitation of any situation where a person is used as an object for the good of others.

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