Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Legal Ethics and the Spirit of Dr. Mengele

This morning I taught my first legal ethics class of the new year. I start by trying to help students see the limits of role-differentiated morality (i.e., the notion that the role of a lawyer justifies conduct that would otherwise be considered immoral). To do so, I posed the following hypothetical:

"Suppose you were a scientist living in Nazi Germany. You are taken to a concentration camp and told to further your research by conducting experiments on live human subjects. Would you do so?"

Here are a sampling of the comments this provoked:

"If they are going to die anyway in the camp, their deaths might as well contribute to the greater good of medical knowledge."

"That society's morality would have been determined by military might, and could easily include the idea that the Aryan race should be advanced, so I would probably do the experiments."

"Scientists should focus on the advancement of science."

After considerable prompting, one student said "there's something to be said for dying with dignity, even if you're going to die anyway."

The conversation proceeded along similar lines last year, when I first used the Nazi example.



Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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» Summon the Nazis from IrishLaw
I think it is reasonably uncontroversial to say that the Nazis represented the worst of humanity. Stalin may have killed more people, Dark Ages executioners may have done so more cruelly, but the Nazis in their ruthless inhumanity towards, most abomi... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 24, 2004 9:09:03 PM