Lawrence A. Zeidman, MD, FAAN
As a clinical neurologist, Dr. Zeidman specializes in peripheral nerve disease and has directed most recently the Neuromuscular-EMG Division at Loyola University Medical Center. But since 2010, he converted an interest of history and ethics in medicine/neurology into an academic mission, mainly on the subject of Neuroscience under National Socialism in Europe/World War II. He has been an Associate Professor of Medical Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) Medical College since 2018. And since 2019 he has held a joint appointment at Loyola in the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics. He has published over 20 papers or chapters in peer-reviewed journals, recently published a book with Oxford University Press (https://global.oup.com/academic/product/brain-science-under-the-swastika-9780198728634?lang=en&cc=us), has presented works at national and international meetings, taught a UIC Honors Seminar, and gave a colloquium at UIC Medical College. Many graduate and undergraduate students at UIC and Loyola have collaborated with him on papers.
Dr. Zeidman played instrumental roles in getting two neuroscientists named Righteous Among the Nations in Israel (Haakon Saethre and Cornelius Ariëns Kappers), and also succeeded in getting the “Hans Berger EEG Symposium” at Virginia Commonwealth University renamed given Berger’s involvement in Nazi policies. He has served as Associate Editor for Neuro-history for the Journal of Child Neurology since 2012, delivered a platform presentation at the 2013 AAN meeting, delivered the Keynote Address for Holocaust Remembrance Day at New York Medical College in 2017, and the 2019 Loyola Health Sciences Division 2018-19 Humanities Forum Lecture. Other honors for Zeidman include receiving the 2015 “Outstanding Article Award” from the International Society for the History of Neurosciences, receiving two UIC International Development Fund Awards, and a highly-competitive Rockefeller Archive Center Grant-in-Aid.
Dr. Zeidman’s seminar and book center on the connections between professional and research ethics in a political extreme, but have much relevance for today’s physicians. Due to opportunism and deprofessionalization, physicians joined the Nazi Party in 1933 in record numbers and removed their Jewish and Socialist colleagues immediately. These physicians quickly discovered they could obtain research funding and career advancement by supporting racial hygiene agendas, beginning with the forced sterilization of 400,000 neurologic and psychiatric patients throughout the Reich. With the start of WWII, sterilization was abandoned, and physicians (primarily psychiatrists and neurologists) helped to kill up to 275,000 patients designated as “useless eaters” through mass murder and localized killing. The Nazi euthanasia programs led to the Holocaust and murder of millions of racial “undesirables.” Some neuroscientists benefited from collecting brains of those murdered and using expendable asylum patients for unethical experiments. But other neuroscientists courageously resisted the political and racial agendas, proving that this was possible even under such extreme circumstances. Zeidman’s book, class, and articles weave together these historical and ethical principles. Future generations of medical professionals must understand the dangers and ramifications of ethical abandonment with professional interaction, patient care, and medical research that have occurred in the past, since no law or oath will prevent this, especially under extreme political circumstances.