Should a Murderer Be Allowed to Practice Medicine?

The case of a Nazi sympathizer who entered a famed Swedish medical school in 2007, seven years after being convicted of a hate murder, throws a rarely discussed question into sharp focus: Should a murderer ever be allowed to practice medicine? A killer turned healer might seem to be a shining example of prison rehabilitation. And in many societies, including the United States, criminals who pursue an education during or after their prison sentence are often admired for their determination to turn their lives around. Yet it is hard to think of a case in which a murderer should become a medical doctor. Murder and medical practice are simply incompatible. Medical education involves more than learning from textbooks. Earning a medical degree requires a student to interview and examine patients, often in intimate circumstances. Integrity and trust are the core of the patient-doctor relationship. Any erosion of them could harm the healing process. How many patients would feel comfortable being put to sleep by an anesthesiologist who once murdered? Most medical institutions do not want murderers in their midst. How many patients would go to a hospital where a doctor was a convicted murderer? How many doctors and nurses would feel comfortable on the same team as a murderer, particularly a perpetrator of a hate crime against one’s own group? The Swedish case is extraordinary, of course. But it poses questions that resonate far beyond the prestigious Karolinska Institute, where the murderer, Karl Helge Hampus Svensson, 31, began medical school last year. (Last week, he was expelled on a technical issue — apparently falsifying his high school transcript.) Alliances...