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Ethical considerations in the use of Pernkopf's Atlas of Anatomy: A surgical case study

Published:September 14, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.surg.2018.07.025
      The use of Eduard Pernkopf's anatomic atlas presents ethical challenges for modern surgery concerning the use of data resulting from abusive scientific work. In the 1980s and 1990s, historic investigations revealed that Pernkopf was an active National Socialist (Nazi) functionary at the University of Vienna and that among the bodies depicted in the atlas were those of Nazi victims. Since then, discussions persist concerning the ethicality of the continued use of the atlas, because some surgeons still rely on information from this anatomic resource for procedural planning. The ethical implications relevant to the use of this atlas in the care of surgical patients have not been discussed in detail. Based on a recapitulation of the main arguments from the historic controversy surrounding the use of Pernkopf's atlas, this study presents an actual patient case to illustrate some of the ethical considerations relevant to the decision of whether to use the atlas in surgery. This investigation aims to provide a historic and ethical framework for questions concerning the use of the Pernkopf atlas in the management of anatomically complex and difficult surgical cases, with special attention to implications for medical ethics drawn from Jewish law.
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