“Psychiatry in the Nazi era”

I read with interest the article on “Psychiatry in the Nazi era”.

It is a common notion during Nazi era that feeble-mindedness, schizophrenia, manic depression and epilepsy were suspected to belong to the class of inherited diseases. Nazi believed that their civilization was in danger if the process of spreading bad gene was not stopped.

Law was introduced to voluntary sterilization of carefully specified groups (schizophrenics, manic depressives, epileptics). Involuntary sterilization was to be pronounced by court consisting 2 medical officers and a judge. Finally, about 350,000 persons were being sterilized.

The idea that precipitate mass sterilization come from Hitler himself. He believed that such a law had to be obeyed for 600 years to show a significant effect.

Nazis too subscribed to mercy killing for incurable psychiatric patients. In the Second World War, the pressure to kill incurable psychiatric patients increased drastically. Hitler founded a murder organization.

Patients were killed using carbon monoxide. As usual, some psychiatrists worked for Hitler and many protested. Killing by gas stopped during war against Soviet Union in 1941.

The idea of using these patients for brain anatomy research evolved during this period. At the same time, based on the knowledge of using carbon monoxide in killing feeble-mindedness patients, the same method was used to kill the Jews.

Finally, history has leave us with many facts to be learned. First, the abandonment of the individual in favour of the group should always be checked for abuse. Second, the wishes of the patient should always be respected and last but not least, welcome to the new era of medical ethics.

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