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Theme 5 Bodies and the body politic: life, death and organ transplantation Tissues and treatments: organ transplantation. HI269 Week 21. Transplantation: Medical Miracle?.

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Theme 5 Bodies and the body politic: life, death and organ transplantationTissues and treatments: organ transplantation


Week 21

transplantation medical miracle
Transplantation: Medical Miracle?

A verger's dream: Saints Cosmas and Damian performing a miraculous cure by transplantation of a leg Andrés Sánchez de Oña c. 1484-1510


"Felix, the eighth pope after S. Gregory, did make a noble church at Rome of the saints Cosmo and Damian, and there was a man which served devoutly the holy martyrs in that church, who a canker had consumed all his thigh. And as he slept, the holy martyrs Cosmo and Damian, appeared to him their devout servant, bringing with them an instrument and ointment of whom that one said to that other: Where shall we have flesh when we have cut away the rotten flesh to fill the void place? Then that other said to him: There is an Ethiopian that this day is buried … which is yet fresh, let us … take we out of that morian's flesh and fill this place withal. And so they fetched the thigh of the sick man and so changed that one for that other. And when the sick man awoke and felt no pain, he put forth his hand and felt his leg without hurt … and saw well that it was not his thigh, but that it was another…”

transplantation medical murder
Transplantation: Medical Murder?

Heidi Cartwright, Brain in a Bowl

bodies and identities parts wholes
Bodies and Identities: Parts & wholes…
  • Human bodies imbued with social meanings
  • Bodies not regarded as either vessels or integrated wholes, but as simultaneously both: partially dualistic, but also partially ‘ensouled’
  • So where does identity and ‘personhood’ lie in this complex entity?
the german context
The German context
  • Ideas (and ideals) of the Volk (people) , Volkscörper(‘body’ of society/body politic) and Volksgemeinschaft(nation as an integrated community/ extended family)
  • Post WWI, rapid urbanization combined with loss of a generation of healthy young men, and economic despair  concerns about ‘racial degeneration’ (not just in Germany)
  • Policy responses mirror Progressivist thinking elsewhere (eg. USA), but with a greater emphasis on state and professional involvement and Social Darwinism: Rassenhygiene, Sozialhygiene, and Volkshygiene.
      • Emerging disciplines like anthropology anxious to contribute to national drive to identify ‘undesirables’ ‘scientifically’
      • Good fit with rapid growth of medical specialization and search for medical role in governance
the german context1
The German context
  • National Socialism builds on this foundation: national identity is tied to the physical bodies of its citizens, and social/national wellbeing is tied to physical vitality and regeneration
  • In combination with common EuroAmerican preoccupations of the day – eugenics, fears of ‘race suicide’, racism, and rising status of science – this allows for the ‘scientific’ definition of lebensunwertes Leben, and the ideological stance that such lives must be subjected to medical and scientific categorization, ‘control’, limitation, and elimination.
So: how did Germany go from national regeneration to the death camps? Hogle argues for three linked factors:
    • Myth of a superior national biological and social body;
    • Redefinition of all other bodies as essentially different and lesser – as not fully human;
    • Development of social and technological means for converting such lesser material into useful substances for the greater national good
  • Note the central place taken by medicine and the sciences in this progression…


Petition of Bishop of Limburg to the Reich Minister of JusticeConcerning Killing of Patients at the State Hospital for the Mentally Ill at Hadamar13 August 1941

“About 8 kilometers from Limburg … there is an institution which had formerly served

various purposes and of late had been used as a nursing home; this institution

was renovated and furnished as a place in which… euthanasia has been systematically practiced for months …Several times a week buses arrive in Hadamar with a considerable number of such victims. School children of the vicinity know this vehicle and say:" There comes the murder-box again." After the arrival of the vehicle, the citizens of Hadamar watch the smoke rise out of the chimney and are tortured

with the ever-present thought, of the miserable victims, especially when repulsive

odors annoy them, depending on the direction of the wind. The effect of the

principles at work here are: Children call each other names and say," You're crazy;

you'll be sent to the baking oven in Hadamar." Those who do not want to marry, or find

no opportunity, say," Marry, never! Bring children into the world so they can be put into the bottling machine!" You hear old folks say, "Don't send me to a state hospital!

After the feeble-minded have been finished off, the next useless eaters whose

turn will come are the old people."

All God-fearing men consider this destruction of helpless beings as crass injustice. …

The official notice that N. N. had died of a contagious disease and that for

that reason his body has to be burned, no longer finds credence, and such

official notices which are no longer believed have further undermined the ethical value

of the concept of authority….”

nazi medicine on trial nuremberg
Nazi Medicine on trial: Nuremberg

Half of the German medical profession joined the Nazi party from 1933-45; only those who faced discrimination under Nazi policies actively protested them.

The Nuremberg trials detailed the nature of Nazi medical experimentation on death camp inmates, presented evidence of those experiments, and crucially, judged not only individuals but the profession and science of medicine in the Nazi era.

  • A. High Altitude ExperimentsB. Freezing ExperimentsC. Malaria ExperimentsD. Mustard Gas ExperimentsE. Ravensbrueck Experiments on Sulfanilamide & Other Drugs;

F. Ravensbrueck Experiments on Bone, Muscle, and Nerve Regeneration and Bone TransplantationG. Sea-Water ExperimentsH. Epidemic JaundiceI. Sterilization ExperimentsJ. Typhus (Fleckfieber) and Related ExperimentsK. Poison ExperimentsL. Incendiary Bomb ExperimentsM. Jewish Skeleton Collection

nazi medicine on trial nuremberg1
Nazi Medicine on trial: Nuremberg
  • Conclusion of the Prosecution’s Opening Statement: “I have now completed the sketch of some of the foul crimes which these defendants committed in the name of research. The horrible record of their degradation needs no underlining. But German medical science was in past years honored throughout the world, and many of the most illustrious names in medical research are German. How did these things come to pass? I will outline briefly the historical evidence which we will offer and which, I believe, will show that these crimes were the logical and inevitable outcome of the prostitution of German medicine under the Nazis.”
post war medical reform and regulation
Post-War medical reform and regulation
  • Nuremberg trials and establishment of the Nuremberg code (next slide);
  • Personhood laws incorporated directly into the Basic Law of 1949, formalizing ideas of ‘human dignity’ and protecting bodily integrity of the living and the dead and heavily regulating the removal of tissue from either:
      • “The worth of persons is inviolable”
      • “Everyone has the right to life and bodily integrity”
  • Virtually no medical involvement in promoting organ or tissue donation, or in debates with opponents of organ/tissue donation and experimentation.

SO: after privileging the interests of the Volk and Volkskörper over those of individuals under national Socialism, Germany now privileges individual rights most highly.


THE NUREMBERG CODE [from Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10. Nuremberg, October 1946–April 1949. Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O, 1949–1953.] Permissible Medical Experiments

The great weight of the evidence before us is to the effect that certain types of medical experiments on human beings … conform to the ethics of the medical profession generally. … All agree, however, that certain basic principles must be observed in order to satisfy moral, ethical and legal concepts:

1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. …

2. The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study....

3. The experiment should be so designed and based [on reliable data & animal experiments] that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment.

4. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.

5. No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur...


THE NUREMBERG CODE [from Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10. Nuremberg, October 1946–April 1949. Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O, 1949–1953.] Permissible Medical Experiments

6. The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.

7. Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death.

8. The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons. ....

9. During the course of the experiment the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end...

10. During the course of the experiment the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probable cause to believe … that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.

explaining german attitudes towards the body
Explaining German attitudes towards the body

Hogle puts forward two theories. either of which could explain German views of the sanctity of the body:

  • Reactions to Nazi atrocities and utilitarian attitudes towards the bodies of the lebesunwertes leben – national guilt/shame; fear that ‘the world is watching’ and will condemn, etc.
  • Blut und Boden – Romantic notions of the body as emblematic of the nation, of purity, etc. Note German attitudes towards other sources of impurity – eg. bio-engineered food, environmental pollution etc.
organs in the media
Organs in the media


Daily Mail: ‘Be and organ donor, get a free funeral! Incentive plan to ease the transplant shortage’ [20 April, 2010]


REMINDER: Last Media Journal/Blog entries are due NEXT WEEK1st Year Papers are due 14 May2nd Year Papers are due 19 MayRemember to include a coversheet, to double space your paper, and to submit it online as well as in hard copy!

seminar medicine gone mad nazis nuremburg and national identity
Seminar: ‘Medicine gone mad’: Nazis, Nuremburg, and national identity
  • Have German responses to the revelations of Nuremberg and the post-war era created a distinctive ‘German medicine’, or merely reinforced differences that were already embedded in German culture?
  • Why is it shocking that medicine and medical professionals participated fully in the Holocaust, turning some bodies into commodities?
  • And to what extent are suspicions of organ transplantation specific to Germany?