Nazi Euthanasia Doctor Gets Award From German Medical Association

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 26, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Nazi Euthanasia Doctor Gets Award From German Medical Association

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 26
, 2008

Berlin, Germany ( — Nazi doctor Hans-Joachim Sewering, suspected of ordering the deaths of as many as 900 children at a German euthanasia center during World War II, has received an award from a top German medical group. The German Federation of Internal Medicine bestowed honors on the 92-year-old physician.

In a statement, the medical group honored the doctor for his more recent contributions to the field.

The organization said Sewering "performed unequalled services in the cause of freedom of the practice and the independence of the medical profession, and to the nation’s health system."

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported the honor and it has written previous reports tying Sewering to the Nazi regime. In one case, he is alleged to have sent a 14-year-old girl from his Munich-based tuberculosis clinic to the euthanasia center.

Sewering has admitted to membership in the SS but has denied involvement in any euthanasia deaths.

Alex Schadenberg, the chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, says the allegations from the Anti-Defamation League in the U.S. of the potential euthanasia deaths "are very important because they remind us that people are capable of doing horrific acts to other human beings."

"Society likes to believe that these horrific acts only happened because of the Nazi regime that controlled Germany, but the reality is that Hitler wasn’t ordering these deaths, physicians were ordering these deaths," he explained. "Hitler only gave them permission."

Whatever the facts, Schadenberg said society needs to be mindful of the concerns of subjecting disabled people and others to death when their quality of life is seen as less than desirable.

"Whether Sewering is partly responsible for 900 deaths or not, it is clear that in the long-term, the primary victims of euthanasia will be people with disabilities and other vulnerable persons who will either be subtly coerced into accepting death or killed out of indifference," he explained.

"People who lack equality, also will lack the necessary ability to effectively resist the culture of death," he concluded.