In wartime there are countless injuries, and surgeons have great opportunities to practice their skills, as well as to experiment on patients.
After Paul and Albert are wounded, they are taken to the army hospital where they are very anxious because the surgeons remove legs with little provocation. Truly, they seem sadistic because they probe wounds without giving the wounded person anything to dull their pain. In Chapter Ten, for instance, Paul describes his experiences with a surgeon after his arm is wounded:
The surgeon pokes around in the wound and a blackness comes before my eyes. "Don't carry on so," he says...and hacks away.
When Paul is threatened with being chloroformed, he becomes quiet but, the surgeon "cackles" and resumes what he has been doing. Paul remarks,
Now I see that he is tormenting me, his is merely raking about in the wound and looking up surreptitiously at me over his glasses.
Then, the surgeon sets his leg, and tells him he will see him the next day. While Paul lies in his bed, he hears the surgeon talking with a soldier, explaining that he can fix the soldier's flat feet. However, another soldier warns Paul that the doctor simply wants to break the man's feet and experiment on him. He warns Paul not to let the surgeons operate on him, telling him of one particular doctor to whom Paul should say "No. You are hear to be cured of your wound, not your flat feet.
...What he wants is little dogs to experiment with, so the war is a glorious time for him, as it is for all the surgeons....there are a dozen fellows hobbling around that he has operated on.
Later, Paul learns that his fellow-soldier Albert has had his injured leg amputated.