History of Medicine in the U.S. – Class 421
Throughout history there have always been circumstances where the government has required citizens to undergo some sort of medical procedure. Even though some of these procedures were commonplace in the past, they are now considered ethically wrong. Forced sterilization is an example of this, because it denies a woman of the ability to bare children, and denies a man the ability to inseminate.
Sterilization is defined as ‘the act of making an organism barren or infertile (unable to reproduce)’.When most people hear the words ‘forced sterilization’ the first thing that often comes to mind are the Nazis. In the 1930’s the Nazis introduced a massive, compulsory sterilization of a large segment of the German population (Rosenberg, Jennifer). The government believed that the Germans with the best genes had been killed off in the Second World War, while those with the worse genes stayed behind and didn’t fight, and were then free to procreate more of their ‘bad genes’. Believing that that the preservation of the optimal German genes were more important that an individual’s rights, the government had the authority to do whatever it took to preserve these optimal genes. However, Germany was not the first country to perform forced sterilization (Rosenberg, Jennifer). Even though in the United States we tend to overlook this as something that did not happen, it did. It is part of our past, and will always be part of American history. During the 1900’s the United States had a eugenics program in which the purpose was to attempt to perfect the gene pool, with the idea that if society’s degenerates, like criminals and the mentally ill were barred from having children then society’s problems would disappear (Webster University). American biologists like Charles B. Davenport and Harry H. Laughlin supported the idea of keeping the Anglo-American race pure. Their belief was...