One of the greatest tributes a physician can receive is to have a medical condition named after him. For example, I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Mike Leventhal and remember how all the residents in training with me treated him with the greatest reverence because he was the Leventhal of Stein-Leventhal syndrome, also called polycystic ovary syndrome.
Everyone respects the men who first described Alzheimer’s disease, Down’s syndrome, Hodgkin’s disease, Dupuytren’s contracture and so forth. It is such a great honor that it should not be granted to any person who lies when he takes the Hippocratic oath that says “First, do no harm”.
HANS CONRAD JULIUS REITER: In the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, Drs Dan Wallace and Mike Weisman of the University of California, Los Angeles, reported that a condition called Reiter’s syndrome was named after one of the most heinous, hateful and despicable physicians who ever lived (Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 2000;6(1):49-54). He was a Nazi doctor who was convicted of war crimes for medical experiments that killed thousands of people at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
THE NAZI: Julius Reiter was born February 26, 1881 and died November 25, 1969. In 1932, he signed an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. He wrote a book on the inferiority of non-German people:”German Gold, Healthy Life–Glad Work”. He was one of the most prominent members of the eugenics movement that advocated killing all people who had any physical or mental disability whatever and he also advocated killing “racially inferior” people.
In 1937, as a result of his disgusting beliefs, he was appointed president of the Reich Health Office. He declared that it is medicine’s responsibility to stop further transmission of inferior genes.
During World War II, Dr. Reiter directed medical experiments that killed thousands of unfortunate human beings at the Buchenwald concentration camp. He gave the orders to perform, and he supervised, many medical atrocities. In one series of experiments, he injected typhus into more than 250 Jewish prisoners and then killed them. He also ordered sterilization of non-Aryans.
IS THIS JUSTICE? After the Nazi defeat, the Red Army arrested him and he was tried at Nuremberg and was found guilty of killing inmates at Buchenwald. However, he was released after only three years in a German prison and returned to work as a physician in Germany. He died in 1969, at the age of 88 at his country estate near Hessen.
HE WAS EVEN WRONG ABOUT THE SYNDROME NAMED AFTER HIM: During World War I, the despicable Dr. Reiter had served as a military physician on the Western Front and in the Balkans. This loathsome and disgusting physician reported that in 1916, a German military officer had a sexual affair that was followed by terrible burning on urination, high fever, terrible pains in his joints and burning in his eyes. Dr Reiter named the disease REITER’S SYNDROME after his despicable self.
He made many mistakes. He should not have named it after himself because he was not the first person to describe this syndrome. It had been reported by the English surgeon, Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie 100 years earlier. French physicians Feissinger and Leroy also reported the syndrome in 1916.
Furthermore, Reiter incorrectly thought that this syndrome was caused by a spirochete, similar to the one that causes syphilis. He offered no treatment and certainly no cure. We now know that this syndrome is often caused by mycoplasma and chlamydia bacteria that can be cured by taking doxycycline or other antibiotics.
THE SYNDROME SHOULD BE CALLED REACTIVE ARTHRITIS. The Spondylitis Society, which represents patients who have arthritis, voted to call Reiter’s syndrome “reactive arthritis” (Arthritis Rheum. 2007;56 (2): 693-694). Hopefully, the rest of the medical profession will call their cases of arthritis that are accompanied by burning on urination or pain in the eyes “reactive arthritis”, and stop paying homage to the immoral killer, Dr. Julius Reiter, who lied when he took the Hippocratic Oath. No self-respecting physician should ever again use the name Reiter’s syndrome.
1) DJ Wallace, M Weisman. Should a war criminal be rewarded with eponymous distinction? The double life of Hans Reiter. Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 2000;6(1):49-54.
2) Panush, RS; Wallace, DJ; Dorff, ARE; Engleman, EP (2007). “Retraction of the suggestion to use the term “Reiter’s syndrome” sixty-five years later: the legacy of Reiter, a war criminal, should not be eponymic honor but rather condemnation”. Arthritis Rheum 2007;56(2): 693-694.