International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.
It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1 November 2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on 24 January 2005 during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust.
While I was at Grad School I had a course called “Ethics in healthcare: The Nuremberg Code”. My classmates and I were assigned with the task of making PowerPoint presentations with regards to the “Doctors Trials” the breach of ethics during the Holocaust.
A particular thing that caught my eye was the “twin experiments” performed by Josef Mengele (known popularly as Angel of Death). At the time when I was working on this presentation I was also working on my own thesis. I kept trying to figure out why twins and why identical twins particularly were chosen? Then it hit me that one was a control variable and the other was the experimental variable.
So in quantitative research and probability sampling we try as much as possible to maintain homogeneity in the experimental as well as the control group/variable. The control group is the one which is not administered with any intervention (sometimes placebo is administered) and in this way the effect of the intervention is studied on the experimental group on which the actual intervention is administered. Identical twins are genetically identical (perfectly homogenous) and henceforth a perfect sample of research.
The experiments severely breached the rule of informed consent since experimentation was carried out without the participant’s consent.
Some of the experiments were as follows:
- Sewing together a pair of identical twins to create conjoined twins. The children died of gangrene a few days later.
- Studying the effects of a direct chloroform injection to the heart.
- Injecting chemicals into eyes of children so as to change its color. Children with Heterochromatic eyes (born naturally with each eye being a different color) were killed and studied.
It rent my heart to know what all had happened in the name of medical research. From that day forth, I decided that during my internship at the hospital I would personally remind the families of the patients undergoing any surgery or intervention about the informed consent form and its importance.
Here is a first person account of how one woman and her twin survived the twin experiments and lived to tell the tale, please do check it out here:
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