Karl Heinrich Julius Hackethal, born on November 6, 1921, in Reinholterode, Germany, and passing away on October 17, 1997, in Bernau am Chiemsee, left a lasting imprint on the medical community for his unconventional views, his contributions to surgery, and his advocacy for active euthanasia. Hackethal was a complex figure whose life and career were marked by both innovation and controversy.
Early Life and Education
Julius Hackethal, initially known as Karl Heinz, grew up on his family’s farm in Reinholterode, where he and his siblings actively participated in farm work. Despite his mother’s aspirations for him to become a country doctor, Julius had different plans. He volunteered for the German Wehrmacht during World War II, defying his parents’ wishes. However, circumstances took a turn when he secured a place at the military medical academy, leading him down a path toward a career in medicine. He pursued his medical studies at various universities, including Berlin, Würzburg, and Göttingen, ultimately obtaining his medical degree.
Hackethal’s career in medicine was marked by several notable achievements. In 1961, he invented “Bündelnägel,” also known as Hackethal nails, a surgical device used in orthopedic surgery. Although these nails are no longer in use today, they were a significant innovation at the time.
Hackethal first gained public attention in 1963 during the Erlanger Professorship Dispute in Erlangen, Germany. He accused the head of surgery, Gerd Hegemann, of 138 serious medical errors, more than half of which resulted in fatalities. Dissatisfied with the conditions at the hospital, Hackethal refused to continue working and was subsequently dismissed.
This dispute, known as the “Erlanger Professorship Dispute,” garnered significant media attention. While all 138 alleged errors were eventually investigated and resolved, Hackethal’s academic career came to an end as a result of the controversy.
Medical Criticism and Advocacy
Following his departure from academia, Hackethal became a prominent and controversial figure in the German medical community. His 1976 book, “Auf Messers Schneide” (On the Cutting Edge), criticized the medical profession for its practices and called for more ethics in medicine and improved doctor-patient relationships. Hackethal was an outspoken critic of the medical establishment and repeatedly clashed with his colleagues.
Controversial Views on Cancer Treatment
Hackethal’s views on cancer treatment were particularly contentious. He argued against what he called the “mutilation strategy” employed in conventional cancer treatment, claiming that surgeries and chemotherapy often caused unnecessary harm. He famously traveled to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to study alternative cancer treatments. He introduced the concept of “Haustierkrebs” (house pet cancer), suggesting that some cancers should be left untreated rather than operated on.
What was Julius Hackethal’s Cause of Death?
Julius Hackethal passed away on 17 October 1997. However, the exact cause of his death has not been revealed.