Vaccines During World War 2

638 words | 3 page(s)

In the case presented, scientists created a typhus vaccine during World War II. They were commissioned by the German government to create the vaccine for the Nazi soldiers. However, at the time, typhus was also a serious problem in the Jewish ghettoes and the other populations that were being targeted for persecution by the Nazis. The scientists chose to send a weakened or ineffective version of the vaccine to the Nazi soldiers. Meanwhile, they chose to send the effective vaccine to the victims of Nazi persecution. One can most certainly understand why they had a desire to do this. They wanted to aid those who were being persecuted while not assisting the persecutors. However, from an ethical aspect of medicine and public health, what they did was wrong.

The ethical issues at stake are autonomy and social justice. Firstly, the soldiers may have been told that the vaccine was to protect them from typhus. A person has a right to decide based upon accurate information. The soldiers were not told that they were receiving an ineffective shot. Autonomy likely was not offered to the soldiers from the Nazis. They most likely scenario is that they were not given a choice regarding receiving vaccinations. However, the Nazis would have made that choice. Scientists should not have engaged in the same treatment of the soldiers as did the Nazi leaders. In addition, social justice indicates that all populations should be treated the same. While the actions of the Nazis were atrocious, not all Nazis engaged in the horrific actions of the Holocaust. These soldiers were treated differently because they were associated with individuals who performed crimes against humanity. To deny them accurate medical care is also an ethical issue. The issue of social justice also required that the scientists protect all populations, particularly the vulnerable ones. Under this ethical issue, the scientists had a right to offer the vaccination to the Jewish people in the ghettoes, as well as the other persecuted populations.

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The second ethical question is the relevant ethical considerations. In this case, the relevant ethical issue is that the scientists believed they were helping to protect persecuted populations, as well as potentially helping to weaken the German army. One can understand why this was important to them. One shudders to think what would have happened if the Nazis and the German army had succeeded with their domination plans. The world today would be one of only an Aryan race, and potentially billions of innocent individuals would have been murdered. The scientists may have believed they needed to work against these plans. However, science should remain pure to the motives.

For medical science, these motives are to improve the lives of people. In this manner, scientists are not here to judge people and make decisions regarding who should or should not receive public health initiatives, such as vaccination.
When scientists begin to decide what life is worthy or receiving a vaccination, they have been the Nazis. The Nazis decided what life was worth saving. The scientists should not become the same people they were objecting to with the research.

In the case presented, scientists created a typhus vaccination to help prevent a horrific disease that spreads during times of war and poverty. They chose to give the vaccination to the persecuted populations and withhold it from the Nazi soldiers. While their motives are understandable, they cannot be condoned from an ethical issue. While giving the Nazi soldiers an ineffective vaccination, they essentially determined that the lives of the Nazi soldiers were not worth saving. They should be commended for giving the vaccination to the persecuted groups in Nazi Germany. However, they also made a moral decision regarding the life of a Nazi soldier. This is what the Nazi soldiers did to the Jewish people. It cannot be condoned.

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