The front page report in the 9/3/21 issue of The World about Coos County Sheriff Zanni deciding not to enforce Governor Brown’s mask mandate raised some interesting points. I found the sheriff’s rationale to be compelling. I feel he is correct in stating everyone should take the responsibility for their own behavior. But with the current strain on the healthcare system, it is obvious a lot of people haven’t met those responsibilities. It would be wonderful if they become informed and act accordingly.
I was ignorant of the Nuremberg Code he referenced and did a Google search for it. I learned that it was developed after the 1947 Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals who had performed medical “experiments” with incarcerated people. Its purpose was to establish 10 new ethical standards for physicians to follow. Informed consent is central to those standards with the caveat that risk must be weighed with the expected benefits. No harm to the patient must result from medical intervention.
While I accept the sheriff’s intentions, I question using the Nuremberg Code - developed for physicians - to support the broad brushstroke of personal choice during a pandemic that affects the whole of society. I don’t know which Journal of Medicine article he references with regards to justifying allowing individuals to refuse vaccinations and mask wearing, but I’m surprised by that conclusion. To jump from a physician-oriented ethics tenet to a citizen-at-large behavior model is quite a long leap.
The experimentation phase of the COVID vaccine development has occurred with consenting adults. Mask wearing has been proven to decrease virus spread. In this case, I would remind people that, as the Nuremberg Code states, the risks must be weighed with the benefits.