Was it Ethical to Use Nazi Text for Assistance in a Surgery?

Was it Ethical to Use Nazi Text for Assistance in a Surgery?

From the University of Washington in St. Louis, Dr. Susan Mackinnon was told by her 50-year-old patient that in case her surgery went unsuccessful, her leg should be amputated as it caused her unbearable pain.  Her nerve was badly pinched after undergoing several knee replacements. Dr. Mackinnon thought that the surgery would be technically challenging yet a straightforward operation, but once she started the operation and had already cut the knee, she had to call a time-out.

One of the most renowned nerve surgeons of the country, Mackinnon, was now stumped. She was unable to trace the location of saphenous nerve along with its branches. In order to figure out the location of the wending of the nerve between, around and under the muscle and connective tissue and then free it, she had to consult the most precise and best maps of the anatomy of peripheral nerves that were ever created. So she requested her colleague, Dr. Andrew Yee, to take a picture of the right illustration from the Pernkopf Topographic Anatomy of Man and then email it in the OR.

On receiving the photograph, Dr. Mackinnon projected it on a screen, realized where the nerve was, and then successfully completed her surgery.

However, a little time after this surgery in 2014, she started wondering if using the book was ethical as its authors were Viennese medical illustrators who also happened to be ardent Nazis. A medical dean from Austria who had fired all his Jewish professors at the time of Anschluss compiled the book. The book was based partly on the bodies of those executed by the Nazis.

As Mackinnon and Yee knew the history of the book that was revealed in the mid 1980s, and they were confused about it what they did being ethical or not, they contacted some of the leading historians of the nation of Nazi medicine, some bioethicists, and the experts of Jewish law to discuss the matter which will be published in the Journal Surgery in May.