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Posted by on Jan 30, 2008 in Ethics

Hello, My Name Is Dr. Mengele—Er, Svensson

Hello, My Name Is Dr. Mengele—Er, Svensson

Last week, student Karl Helge Hampus Svensson was expelled from the medical school of the Karolinska Institute because it was determined that he had falsified his name on his high school transcripts. Apparently school officials used the falsification incident to deny Svensson a career in medicine, because they somehow couldn’t justify expulsion on the basis of the student’s recently discovered criminal record for a 1999 murder.


While foregoing a lengthier discussion of why it is not possible for Swedes to expel an individual on the basis of a revealed murderous history (that’s one hell of a sin of omission) or why school officials would inexplicably pose the decision to Svensson’s classmates, the NYT’s Lawrence K. Altman, MD, muses on the ethical question of whether a murderer should ever be allowed to pursue a career in the healing professions (“When a Murderer Wants to Practice Medicine“).


Overtly missing from Altman’s article is a discussion of the driving force behind Svensson’s homicidal act, which was evidently motivated by neo-Nazism. In my mind, the question is not so much whether a convicted murderer should ever be allowed into medical school (in which case, the answer might depend on the circumstances of the murder and the rigorous psychologic scrutiny of the applicant), but whether a person who holds neo-Nazi beliefs should be allowed the opportunity to practice medicine. The answer to that question is a quick and resounding No.

bmartin (1127 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.