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Medical Ethics in the Wake of the Holocaust: Departing from a postwar paper by Ludwik Fleck
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
2007 (English)In: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, ISSN 1369-8486, E-ISSN 1879-2499, Vol. 38, no 3, 642-655 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In 1948 Ludwik Fleck published a paper in Polish discussing the use of humans in medical experiments, thereby addressing his peers. Though the paper has so far not been translated or studied, it has been taken to indicate Fleck's deep commitment to ethical questions, notably the question of informed consent. In being written by a former victim of the Nazi policy and a survivor of the Holocaust also acting as an expert witness in the trial of the IG Farben in Nuremberg, the paper is of interest. A scrutiny of Fleck's text and related sources discloses, however, not only the complexity of the issue at the centre of the Nuremberg trial, but also Fleck's unexpected stance in seemingly adducing his arguments from both the German defendants and the prosecution, heavily informed by US scientists. Further, the contentious discussion of the past in Fleck's paper reveals its links to modern bioethical discussion. Though sometimes oblivious of that past, it still faces the same questions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 38, no 3, 642-655 p.
Keyword [en]
Doctors' Trial; Human experimentation; Informed consent; Ludwik Fleck; Nuremberg Code; Prisoner research
National Category
Philosophy History
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6683DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2007.06.005PubMedID: 17893071ScopusID: 2-s2.0-34548807979OAI: diva2:11460
QC 20100826Available from: 2006-12-22 Created: 2006-12-22 Last updated: 2010-08-26Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Reading fleck: Questions on philosophy and science
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reading fleck: Questions on philosophy and science
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

The present thesis is based on a scientifically-informed, contextualized and historicized reading of Ludwik Fleck. In addition to his monograph, the material studied includes his additional philosophical writings, his internationally-published scientific articles and two, thus-far-unstudied postwar Polish papers related to his Buchenwald experiences. The sources provided by Fleck have been traced back to the time of their origin. Based on the above material, it is argued that, rather than relativizing science and deeply influencing Kuhn, Fleck, attempting to participate in the current debates, is an ardent proponent of science, offering an internal account of its pursuit that accords with his oft-contested epistemic concepts, e.g., Denkzwang, Sinnsehen and Kopplungen. The exposure of his description of the Wassermann reaction discloses a highly selective reading of the sources available at the time, but also reveals its relation to the current debate on Einzelwissenschaften, or the standing of new emerging disciplines versus age-old ones, all occasioned by the remarkable progress of science that has also affected philosophy. The divide between philosophers and scientists on the philosophical implications of modern physics is exposed, as is Fleck’s heuristic use of the latter topic in his epistemology. A more realistic account of his often-valued scientific accomplishments is provided. It is argued that the modern interpretation or received humanist view of Fleck is based on the opposition, at the time Fleck’s monograph was rediscovered, of STS writers to a scientifically-informed reading of his texts. An additional corrective to the received view of Fleck is found in some of his postwar Polish papers related his Buchenwald experiences. The latter might also provide an answer to some of the contradictions inherent in the modern mythology surrounding Fleck. In amply exposing the precarious situation of the time, and the complexity of the ethical issues at stake, Fleck’s papers in fact generate age-old philosophical questions still worth contemplating.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2006. 26 p.
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831
Ludwik Fleck, Wassermann reaction, Informed consent, Buchenwald studies, Human experimentation
National Category
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4250 (URN)91-7178-471-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-01-15, Sal F3, KTH, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 10:00
QC 20100826Available from: 2006-12-22 Created: 2006-12-22 Last updated: 2010-08-26Bibliographically approved

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