BERLIN, June 28, 2004 ( – Professor Rolf Winau, director of the centre for humanities and health sciences at the Charite medical school in Berlin, has urged doctors in reproductive medicine to revisit the medical experiments carried out during the Nazi era and to “exorcize their demons” with regard to eugenics philosophy. Winau expressed the mainstream of modern bioethics thinking when, at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), he urged IVF researchers to overcome their moral revulsion against eugenics.

Currently, Germany has some of the most restrictive laws of any Western nation in governing artificial procreation. All embryos that are created must be implanted, and the practice of screening embryos for genetic abnormalities is outlawed. Germany also has a comprehensive ban on cloning and has not followed the trend of separating cloning for reproductive and therapeutic purposes. Pressure has been intense, however, from the bioethics community to open the country to the full range of eugenics practices that are commonly followed in other developed nations.  Winau, adding his voice to the international chorus of pressure groups, has called Germany’s Nazi eugenics policies “dark times” and urges doctors to get over their reluctance to study the period. After admitting that awareness of the dangers of eugenics philosophy is the reason for Germany’s restrictive laws, Winau said, “We need to study the ‘Rassenhygiene’, the German version of eugenics, in order to show how far eugenic and racial thinking can go, so that we can have it in mind when we discuss ethical questions on reproduction and fertility.”“If we do not, we face uncertainty, lack of information, and confusion when considering ethical questions in the future.”  However, what Winau neglected to mention is the huge body of philosophical and historical research being done on the development of the Nazi policies. German Historian, Henry Friedlander, in his seminal work, Origins of Nazi Genocide, warned that the Nazi program of racial purification could rise again. He wrote of the eugenics policies that allowed for the killing of the handicapped, “euthanasia was not simply a prologue but the first chapter of Nazi genocide.” Friedlander’s book and articles have warned copiously against adopting any utilitarian mode of thinking of the value of human life.

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