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Ferdinand Sauerbruch
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Doctor
    (July 3, 1875-July 2, 1951)
    Born in Barmen, Germany
    German surgeon
    Head of the surgical department at the Charité university hopsital in Berlin (1928-49)
    Named Surgeon General of the German Army (1942)
    Found not guilty of war crimes (1949)
    He gave speeches urging people to 'wholeheartedly support' the Nazi government.
    He complained to a colleague that several hospitals had been 'verjudet' (had a disproportionately large number of Jews on the staff) before the Nazis took power.
    He was frequently arrogant and abusive to members of his staff.
    He sported a Hitleresque mustache.
    After WWII, he developed dementia and began bungling operations, such as forgetting to reattach the patient's intestine after removing a stomach tumor.
    Because of his prestige, the Charité looked the other way until the death toll (and number of pending negligence suits) became too large to ignore.
    He then operated on patients on the dining room in his home, working without anesthesia, making no attempt to sterilize instruments, and closing up patients with needle and thread from his wife's sewing basket.
    The carnage was so bloody that his wife took to stopping patients in the streets and sending them home, and begging the medical authorities to intervene.
    He developed a pressure chamber for operating on the open thorax, which made lung and heart operations less risky (1904).
    As a battlefield surgeon during World War I, he developed several new types of prosthetic limbs.
    He donated his time to perform hundreds of free operations for the poor.
    He contacted the minister of justice to lobby for an end to Nazi Germany's euthanasia program against the mentally ill.
    Authorities at the Charité suppressed news about his mental decline because he was the hospital's biggest magnet for donations and fund drives.
    The director of the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin told one would-be whistleblower, 'In the coming struggle of the proletariat, millions will lose their lives.... It is trivial whether Sauerbruch kills a few dozen people on his operating table. We need the name of Sauerbruch.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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