I've been struggling with this issue for quite some time. I'm a postdoc who recently switched fields. I transferred from a field that had numerous ethical complications to a field that has almost no ethical complications.
I deeply regret the fact that my name is on two papers from my previous field. Both have been out for ~3 years. For one, I'm a first author (~25 citations) and for another I'm a second author (~15 citations). I'm much more upset by the second author paper. Very soon after publication, I felt intensely morally opposed to the projects. I tried to "move on" -- but that did not work. I feel a very deep sense of unease, knowing my name is publicly linked to these works. I was so distraught I moved back in with my parents as I could not concentrate for about one year after my PhD. I finally mustered enough energy to accept a postdoc, but now remain (extremely) mentally ill with panic attacks multiple times per week and problems eating/sleeping. I can't focus on my postdoc, and I worry I may be fired. I am still all-consumed with an intense feeling like I need to "fix" these two papers.
Recently, I've pondered attempting to remove my name from the papers in the hopes that it could allow me to move on. I've seen related questions before (about removing names from published papers), but not for the same reason as me. Usually, people want to remove names because they think the work is scientifically flawed, poor quality, poor journal, or that they did not actually contribute any work.
This leads me to many questions, which I've been agitating over for more than one year now.
Is it ethically justifiable to remove my name in this situation?
Does anyone know of examples of where someone removed their name for this reason? Or for any reason? (Maybe even with someone I could speak with)?
The first question is particularly difficult for me, as I think and care deeply about ethics. I imagine it could be deemed "unethical" for me to remove my name, as it puts on a pretense to "change history" and hurts my co-authors. At the same time, I imagine it is unethical for me to keep my name on the paper, as the papers encourages more work in the area, and so as long as my name is on it, it is another name encouraging folks to do this type of work. Also, it is preventing me from living with purpose and joy; I really cannot overstate the negative impact this experience has had on me. If it were a blog post, I would erase it, and move on; but traditional publications are not that simple, and that causes some folks immense harm, especially if they feel ethically repulsed by the content.