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Wegener’s granuloma

11 May
Wegeners J

Wegener’s granuloma

I liked this riot of colour in the background which is cut through by the stark hard-edged black and white of the segmented Chest X-ray.

The person in this examination taken from an X-ray museum suffered a condition in which masses of inflammatory blood-vessels, known as a granuloma, form in the lungs. It is fortunately rare. These lumps of granulomatous tissue often outgrow their blood supply and form large lung cavities. The condition was described by a German pathologist Friedrich Wegener. Although he was not the first so to do, his name became associated with the disease. The American College of Chest Physicians awarded him a prize in 1989. However it was later revealed that he’d become a member of the Nazi Party in 1932. The award was later rescinded because of speculation that he was involved in medical experiments on concentration camp inmates. His direct involvement was not proven. There was circumstantial evidence – he lived three blocks away from a Jewish ghetto in Poland. For these reasons there’s a move to revise history and remove his name from this condition.

As a medical student I was told that medical knowledge of physiology and particularly anaesthetics leaped forward as a result of the experimental work on humans done during that time. This leaves the medical profession with a deep ethical dilemma. Should that knowledge be discarded – not used – because of the appalling way in which it was obtained?

These historical events haunt us; they are revisited even 70 years and more after the event. Those ethical problems will continue to trouble the profession.

Behind the beauty on the surface of this image are layers of historical, ethical, and physical pain.



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