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Doctors and medical ethics in the Third Reich

Project Description

Project reference number: GSBS-2019-102

The topic of medical doctors’ involvement in Nazi crimes has undergone extensive study. Scholars have focused particularly upon the topic’s most high-profile, harrowing aspects, specifically the mass murder of the disabled in the ‘euthanasia programme’, and the horrific medical experiments carried out on concentration camp inmates. They have thus illuminated how medical professionals grossly and systematically violated core ethical principles, particularly the imperatives to ‘do no harm’ and to obtain proper patient consent.

Yet there remains enormous scope for further study of the conduct of more ‘everyday’ forms of medical experimentation within ‘mainstream’ German society under the Third Reich, in fields such as drug trials, and the extent to which Nazi values suffused these practices also. The best means of developing such research is through a local and/or regional case study approach, whilst relating practice at these levels to central Nazi policy-making.

Such study has potential to illuminate extensively the degree to which medical and healthcare ethics were perverted by National Socialism in an everyday societal context, and to offer a base from which to evaluate modern medical ethics. The importance of such study is threefold. Firstly, it will illuminate this phenomenon as it impacted the broad swathe of society. Secondly, the Nuremberg Code, the set of ethical principles laid down in the wake of the post-war Nazi doctors’ trial at Nuremberg, has not itself been rigorously adhered to during the decades since. This makes the topic one of pressing contemporary relevance, in a twenty-first century context of dramatic medical advances with significant ethical implications. Thirdly, the current resurgence of far-right political movements, and the potential danger they pose to human dignity and thus to social justice, makes the need for such study even more pressing.

We will therefore welcome focused PhD proposals in this area (fluency in German essential).

Supervisor Research Profiles

Director of Studies: Dr Ben Shepherd
GCU Research Online URL:

2nd Supervisor: Professor Oonagh Walsh
GCU Research Online URL:

3rd Supervisor: Dr Gillian Murray
GCU Research Online URL:

How to apply

This project is available as a 3 years full-time PhD study programme with expected start date of 1 October 2019

To apply for this project, use the following link to access the online application form, as well as further information on how to apply:

Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview within four weeks from the closing date.

Please send any other enquiries regarding your application to:

Funding Notes

Exceptional candidates will be put forward for the scholarship competition. The Scholarship packages available include fully funded studentships and fees only scholarships. The fully funded studentships are worth £19,300 per year for 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress. They cover payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £14,800.

For further details on funding see View Website

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