April 23, 2024

East German doctors spied for regime

One in 20 doctors informed on colleagues and patients

German doctors have had two encounters with totalitarianism in the 20th
century — and emerged with a blotted copybook from both of them. The role of
Nazi doctors is well documented, and now the files on doctors who collaborated
with the Communist government in East Germany are being opened. A recent study
shows that one in 20 doctors there spied upon colleagues or patients for the
Stasi, the security police. Apparently doctors were targeted by the Stasi
because they belonged to a reactionary class and were easily tempted by the
prospect of escaping to the West.

The doctors — and medical students — had a range of reasons for spying.
Some were trying to advance their career; some were committed Communists; and
others were in it for the money. Psychiatrists and sports medicine doctors were
the most common recruits. About a quarter of these unofficial spies passed on
information about their patients’ private life and health, not just other
doctors. Few of the doctors have come forward to admit their participation. ~
BMJ, Dec 1