Outspoken Proponent of
Free Market Medicine,
Individual Liberty and
the U.S. Constitution
Author , Public Speaker   
Orthopaedic Surgeon
Spanish-born philosopher George Santayana
famously said that those who do not remember
history are condemned to repeat it.  
Unfortunately, the converse is not true, i.e. even
those who do study history cannot be assured of
avoiding the same mistakes.  Tragically, we
rarely see history in enough detail to recognize
ourselves and our contemporaneous life in
previous tragic events. When we look at the
grotesque outcome of Nazi medicine we see only
the end results.  We do not readily see the small
incremental steps that took the German doctors
along the path leading to the “crimes against
humanity” for which several prominent
physicians were executed.

Recently, while rummaging through a book
store I happened upon a biography of Karl
Brandt.  Dr. Brandt, like me, was an orthopaedic
spinal surgeon (although in the 1930s
physicians were not officially designated by this
specialty, that was his field), so the discovery
that Brandt was Hitler’s personal doctor caught
my attention. If you look for Karl Brandt on the
internet you will only find pictures of him in the
dock at Nuremberg, and will read a broad
outline concluding that he was hanged for his
role in the euthanasia program and for
experimentation upon prisoners. It is hard to
identify with such a picture. But, look more
closely, and for those of us in medicine, his life,
his career and the choices he made are
frighteningly familiar, contemporary, and
personal.

Karl Brandt was born just after the turn of the
19 century, in late Wilhelmine Germany. Karl’s
childhood, unlike that of his future employer,
epitomized middle-class normality. His father
was a policeman, and his mother came from a
long line of physicians. The family, living away
from major city centers, escaped much of the
turmoil of the Weimar era, but not its changing
ethos. Karl grew up at a time when private
medicine was being replaced by government
medicine.   Kaiser Wilhelm II first introduced
“free health care” to the German people strictly
for political purposes. His advisers thought that
bribing the populace with a “little bit of
socialism” could prevent wholesale takeover by
the increasingly popular Social Democrats. For
years, the system worked as advertised, bringing
medicine to under-served areas and
strengthening the power of the crown. In fact,
Karl’s grandfather was the first government
physician (known colloquially as “vaccination
doctors”) in his region of Germany.
THE LESSONS OF
KARL BRANDT
By Lee Hieb, M.D.
Dr. Lee Hieb is
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