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Germans must research the history of reproductive medicine during the Nazi era

Berlin, Germany: Researching the history of reproductive medicine during the Nazi era is still taboo, a leading German professor will tell the 20th annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology today (Monday 28 June).

However, it is vital that such research is conducted, because if Germans do not understand what motivated the behaviour of doctors in the past, they will struggle to make decisions about ethical issues that confront doctors and scientists working in gynaecology, embryology and reproduction today, he will say.

Rolf Winau, Professor of the History of Medicine and Director of the Centre for Humanities and Health Sciences at the Charit (the medical faculty) in Berlin, Germany, will say: "This research should not be about blaming or accusing individuals long after the event, but should shed light on how and why professionals in a particular branch of medicine behaved. Knowledge about such behaviour is as important as the knowledge about the success of scientific medicine. Only this knowledge will make it possible to reflect on our present situation."

His remarks come against a background of Germany having some of the strictest laws on human reproduction in Europe. With the shadow of the Nazi-era eugenics hanging over them, in recent years Germans have prohibited a number of procedures that actually could benefit both parents and children. Examples include: preimplantation genetic diagnosis, which can detect genetic diseases in an embryo before it is transferred to a woman; and freezing embryos for use at a later stage, which means that Germany has one of the higher rates of multiple births in Europe, because doctors have to transfer all the embryos they manage to create, regardless of the embryo's quality 40% of all ART births in Germany are multiple births, which carry risks for both the mother and the babies. Cloning, surrogacy and egg donation are illegal too.

Prof Winau says: "From
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Contact: Mary Rice
mary.rice@blueprintpartners.be
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology
28-Jun-2004


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