Medical Ethics and the Holocaust

Still frame from video of Dr. Sheldon Rubenfeld's opening remarks to the Medical Ethics and the Holocaust lecture series

Click to view the opening remarks to the Medical Ethics and the Holocaust lecture series, given by Dr. Sheldon Rubenfeld. (You will need Adobe Flash Player to access this content.)

Some of the world's most influential scientists, physicians, educators and authors, including three Nobel Laureates, offered their views on some of the most challenging questions of modern medical, ethical, scientific, legal and public health policy in the public Dr. Michael E. DeBakey Medical Ethics Lecture Series presented by Holocaust Museum Houston from September 7, 2007 through February 3, 2008.

The lecture series explored how the medical practices of the Third Reich continue to challenge modern medical ethics. Speakers covered topics such as euthanasia and the Human Genome Project, the lasting legacy of the Nuremberg trials, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and how the doctor-patient relationship has changed over the years since the Holocaust.

The Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies presents the lectures below. Video players open in a new window.

September 9, 2007

“The Discovery of DNA: Implications for the 21st Century”

James Dewey Watson
1962 Nobel Laureate (Physiology or Medicine); one of the four discoverers of the structure of the DNA molecule; Head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health 1978-1992.

view a video of James Watson's lecture

“In Search of Memory”

Eric Kandel, M.D.
2000 Nobel Laureate (Physiology or Medicine) Fred Kavli Professor, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Sciences at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

view a video of Eric Kandel's lecture

September 18, 2007

"Why is It So Hard to Learn the Ethical Lessons of the Holocaust?"

Arthur Caplan
The Emmanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics, Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

view a video of Arthur Caplan's lecture

September 25, 2007

“A More Perfect Human: The Promise and the Peril of Modern Science”

Leon Kass, M.D., Ph.D.
Hertog Fellow
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy

view a video of Leon Kass' lecture

October 2, 2007

“From Long Island to Auschwitz”

Edwin Black
Award-winning New York Times and international bestselling investigative author whose work focuses on genocide and hate.

view a video of Edwin Black's lecture

“Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis”

Sandra Carson, M.D.
Professor and Medical Director, Assisted Reproductive Technology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas

view a video of Sandra Carson's lecture

October 9, 2007

Panel Discussion: “What Should We Tell Medical Students About Racial Hygiene, Cultural Diversity, the Doctor- Patient Relationship, and Professionalism?”

Theresa Duello, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

view a video of Theresa Duello's lecture


Jordan Cohen, M.D.
President Emeritus of Association of American Medical Colleges

view a video of Jordan Cohen's lecture

October 16, 2007

“How Doctors Become Killers”

Edmund D. Pellegrino, M.D.
Chairman, The President’s Council on Bioethics, Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Medical Ethics and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University

view a video of Edmund Pellegrino's lecture


“What is the Status of the Government-Citizen Relationship in the United States Today?”

Ward Connerly
Founder and Chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, President and Chief Executive Officer of Connerly & Associates, Inc., author of the autobiography, Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences

view a video of Ward Connerly's lecture

October 23, 2007

"Frankenstein or the More Perfect Human: Who Will It Be?”

Susan E. Lederer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, History of Medicine, Yale University

view a video of Susan Lederer's lecture


“Immediate Gratification and the Quest for Perfection: A Frank Discussion about the Use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports”

Mark Adickes, M.D.
Co-Medical Director, The Roger Clemens Institute for Sports Medicine & Human Performance, Memorial Hermann, Houston, Texas

view a video of Mark Adickes' lecture

October 30, 2007

“Disability and Genocide – Where Are We Today?”

Lex Frieden
Senior Vice President at Memorial Hermann| TIRR Hospital, Chairperson of the National Council on Disability

view a video of the panel discussion


  • Richard Petty, Independent Living Research Utilization
  • Jacquie Brennan, Director, Center for Paralegal Studies, University of Houston
  • Bill Monroe, Professor of English and Executive Associate Dean of the Honors College, University of Houston
  • Wendy Wilkinson, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine.

November 6, 2007

Michael Burleigh’s film “Selling Murder” followed by lecture:
"Cinematic Perspectives on Euthanasia and Assisted-Suicide"

Glen O. Gabbard, M.D.
Brown Foundation Professor of Psychoanalysis, Professor, and Director, Baylor Psychiatry Clinic, Baylor College of Medicine

view a video of Glen Gabbard's lecture

November 13, 2007

“The Legacy of the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial to American Bioethics and Human Rights”

George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H.
Edward R. Utley Professor and Chair, Department of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health

view a video of George Annas' lecture

November 20, 2007

“Power for Life or Power for Death? How and Why Science and Religion can Work Together for Life After the Holocaust”

Rabbi Irving Greenberg, Ph.D.
President, Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation

view a video of Irving Greenberg's lecture


“Science, Medicine and Religion after the Holocaust”

John M. Haas, Ph.D. S.T.L.
President, National Catholic Bioethics Center

view a video of John Haas' lecture

November 27, 2007

“Physician Aid in Dying: When and Why Should This Option be Available? What Happens When Aid in Dying is Legal?”

Kathryn L. Tucker, J.D.
Director of Legal Affairs for Compassion & Choices, Co-counsel in Oregon vs. Ashcroft

view a video of Kathryn Tucker's lecture


“Is Physician-Assisted Suicide Ever Permissible?”

Wesley Smith, LL.B.
Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, and an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant for the Center for Bioethics and Culture

view a video of Wesley Smith's lecture

December 4, 2007

“Academic Medicine during the Nazi Period and Implications for Creating Awareness of Professional Responsibility Today?”

Prof. Dr. Volker Roelcke
Director, Institute of the History of Medicine, Germany

view a video of Volker Roelcke's lecture


William Seidelman, M.D.
Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto

view a video of William Seidelman's lecture

December 11, 2007

“Mad, Bad or Evil: How Physician Healers Turn to Torture, Murder and Genocide From the Nazi Doctors to Abu Ghraib”

Michael Grodin, M.D.
Professor of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights, Department of Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health; Professor of Socio-Medical Sciences, Community Medicine, and Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine

view a video of Michael Grodin's lecture


“Is Medicine a Pacifist Vocation, or Should Doctors Help Build Bombs??"

Michael L. Gross, Ph.D.
Chair, Division of International Relations, School of Political Sciences, The University of Haifa, Israel

view a video of Michael Gross' lecture

January 7, 2008

“From Nuremberg to the Human Genome and Beyond – From Human Rights to Human Interests”

Henry T. “Hank” Greely, J.D.
Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

view a video of Henry T. Greely's lecture

January 17, 2008

“21st Century Genetics: Maximizing Benefits, Minimizing Harms”

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Human Genome Research Institute, Bethesda, Maryland

view a video of Francis Collins' lecture


“What Does 21st Century Eugenics Look Like?”

Christine Rosen, Ph.D.
Fellow for the Project on Biotechnology and American Democracy at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and senior editor of The New Atlantis.

view a video of Christine Rosen's lecture

January 22, 2008

TORCH Jewish Medical Ethics Conference

“Assessing Risk in Patient Care”

George Noon, M.D.
Professor and Chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery and Assist Devices in the Michael E. DeBakey Dept. of Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas

view a video of George Noon's lecture


“Risky Medical Treatments - Jewish Perspective”

Avraham Steinberg, M.D.
Director of the Center for Medical Ethics, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem and winner of the Israel Prize for his Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics

view a video of Avraham Steinberg's lecture

May 16, 2008

Interview of Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, May 16, 2008

Michael E. DeBakey, M.D.
Pioneering cardiovascular surgeon; developed the mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) units and established the Veteran's Administration Medical Center Research System; Chairman of the Department of Surgery (1948-1993), President (1969-1979), Chancellor (1979-1996), and Chancellor Emeritus (1996-2008) at Baylor College of Medicine; recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008; deceased July 13, 2008.

view a video of the interview with Dr. Michael E. DeBakey