At many universities it is considered a medical dissertation if the work is published in an international journal. I briefly noted in 2012 one thesis that was only four pages and which was published together with the advisor in the journal, but accepted as a thesis for the student, a practice which I find questionable. If it is the student's work, the advisor should not be on the journal paper; if the advisor participated in the research and writing, then it is not a dissertation. This should be quite clear, and is also stated in the 1998 guidelines for good scientific practice of the DFG.
There is currently a minor public discussion about another such dissertation from the University of Würzburg. The doctoral student, who submitted in 1985, is the husband of a Bavarian politician, thus the apparent interest in the case. Interestingly, the German National Library (DNB) lists the ten-page dissertation clearly as being the same as a journal article that had two authors, the advisor and the student. Soon after the local press started reporting on the case being a self-plagiarism (for example, the Nürnberger Zeitung) the university issued a statement confirming that they were investigating the case, and then a day later stating that according to the rules that were valid in 1985, it was perfectly okay to submit a dissertation like this. (A discussion about the supposed plagiarism can be found on the VroniPlag Wiki forum.)
I looked up the dissertation this afternoon in the library: "Histochemical and biochemical studies in the kidney of female rats after castration and treatment with sex hormones" (published in 1985 in the Zeitschrift für mikroskopisch-anatomische Forschung, accepted as a dissertation 1986) and found some very similar papers-accepted-as-dissertations listed in the paper and then in the DNB:
- Peptidasen in der Niere männlicher Ratten nach Kastration und Testosteronsubstitution (published in 1984, accepted as a dissertation 1985)
- Proteinmuster im Harn von Ratten nach Kastration und Substitution mit Geschlechtshormonen (published in 1984, accepted as a dissertation 1986)
- Renale Peptidasen und Proteinurie nach Langzeitbehandlung kastrierter Ratten mit Geschlechtshormonen (published in 1984, accepted as a dissertation 1986)
- Peptidasenaktivitäten in der Niere männlicher Ratten nach Kastration und Substitution mit Geschlechtshormonen (published in 1984, no mention of co-authorship of doctoral advisor in the national library, although listed in the bibliography of the first dissertation as co-authorship in the same journal)
- Ditto Cathepsin-B-Aktivitäten in der Niere von Ratten nach Kastration und Behandlung mit Geschlechtshormonen (published in 1985 with no co-authorship mention in the national library, but listed with co-authorship in the bibliography of the first dissertation mentioned).
- Abstract: 1 page
- Introduction: 1/2 page
- Materials and Methods: 1 1/2 pages
- Results: 5 pages, of which 1 1/2 are pictures
- Statistics: 1 page
- Discussion: 1 1/2 pages
- Literature: 1/2 page
Some friends started looking for more of these dissertations, there are scores of them:
- A three-page publication with seven authors that was sufficient for one of the authors to receive a doctorate in medicine from the TH Aachen in 2012.
- A three-page publication with the advisor that was sufficient for a doctorate in Münster in 2006 - with a lovely typo: "Erectile dysfunction (ED) represents a highly prevalent social problem; approximately 5–20% of the general mail population suffer from moderate-to-severe ED."
- Six pages, four authors, one dissertation in Hamburg in 2005.
- Nine pages, seven authors, one dissertation in Hamburg in 2001.