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War injuries in World War II soldier

In BMJ Case Reports, doctors in Germany describe injuries in the body of a 91-year-old former World War II soldier who donated his body for medical education.

CT scanning revealed various small metallic objects, later identified as shrapnel fragments, in both legs, as well as bone abnormalities.

A history obtained from the widow and daughter of the donor revealed that he had been seriously wounded on the Eastern Front at the end of World War II, probably by a nearby rocket explosion.

His multiple fractures and lesions had not been surgically treated in the Austrian military hospital where he was taken, or in the French prisoner of war camp where he was subsequently held.

There was no surgical removal of the fragments, poor wound care, and no antibiotic therapy. This is a violation of the Geneva Convention of 1864, 1906, and 1929, and as a consequence, the donor experienced pain and stiffness in his left leg for the rest of his life.

He sought surgical interventions due to infections caused by the shrapnel, but in two of these cases, he developed septicaemia, and required treatment in intensive care. He had limited mobility, and had to use a walking aid, even for short distances at home.

“In light of current armed conflicts, the present case is an example of how one injustice can result in severe, lifelong medical consequences,” explain the doctors, adding that “implementation of the Geneva Convention must be demanded by governments and NGOs whenever civilians and soldiers are wounded.”

Furthermore, this case highlights “how, even after death, a wounded thigh and the story behind it can inform young physicians about the cruelties of war and their obligation to treat people regardless of race, religion, and gender.”

Article: The tell-tale thigh, Johannes Scheurer, Dietrich Stoevesandt, Holger Siekmann, Heike Kielstein, BMJ Case Reports, doi:10.1136/bcr-2015-212909, published 5 May 2016.