ID# 1866:
"German Eugenics in Practice," by Eliot Slater, Eugenics Review (vol. 27:4), ambivalent review of sterilization and marriage laws
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Cold Spring Harbor, ERO, The Eugenics Review, 27

&quote;German Eugenics in Practice,&quote; by Eliot Slater, Eugenics Review (vol. 27:4), ambivalent review of sterilization and marriage laws

German Eugenics In Practice 289 difference between guardianship and sterilization laws is made clear. Guardianship depends entirely on social irresponsibility. Liability to sterilization is governed by other, biological, considerations. 2. A woman at menopause, last period some months ago, still theoretically capable of bearing children, but not likely to. Sterilization not enforced. Compelling grounds must be shown for necessity of sterilization, not merely a theoretical possibility. 3. A man, aged 50, wife at menopause. Appellant has adult children. The theoretical possibility of producing children by extramarital intercourse held not sufficient to justify sterilization. There are a number of similar decisions. 4. A man, aged 57, is in an institution, and usually allowed out only in company. He has an interest in the other sex, but only as an exhibitionist. He looks so repulsive that it is inconceivable that any woman should wish to have to do with him. Sterilization was rejected on the grounds that he was under adequate supervision. His personal appearance was held to be beside the point, and no grounds for not enforcing the law. 5. A man, stupid, but a useful agricultural labourer. His brother, like himself, attended a special school. Previous history shows early death of mother and a neglectful stepmother. He was held to lie on the boundary between normal stupidity (lanlaufige Unbegabtheit") and deficiency. Sterilization not enforced. The court wished to postpone decision for a year. This is not permitted. On the other hand it is allowed to reintroduce proceedings at a later date if new facts, e.g. altered behaviour, justify it. 6. Woman of limited intelligence, husband the same. Although it was to expected that only children of limited intelligence would be the result of this union, the limitation was not held to amount to mental defect. Sterilization rejected. 7. Three imbecile males, 14, 15, 19 years. The court allowed the appeal, because they can work on the land and show themselves useful members of society. The reduction in numbers of such people is not socially desirable. Bostroem remarks that it is all very well to be tender of "primitive personalities," but if they are imbecile, they ought to be sterilized. 8. Female, aged 25, Normal school career, could never do any useful work, wanted to write stories and poems. In a girls' home was incapable even of finding her place at table, if it was changed. The court held mental defect proven on the following grounds: (a) Development uniform and continuous from childhood up. If she is mentally defective now, she was so congenitally. (b) Father is a psychopath. (c ) Mother was for ten years in an asylum. Appeal dismissed. 9. Man. No proven mental defect, but he is an habitual criminal and recidivist of a bad type, guilty of crimes with violence. The court held that his abnormal behaviour justified the assumption of mental defect. In commenting on the above cases one notes, as indeed was to be expected, a certain lack of uniformity between court and court. One sees three imbeciles, who are capable of simple work on the land, encouraged to propagate their kind, and a criminal psychopath sterilized for mental defect. One notes the admission of irrelevant evidence. It is no good evidence of hereditary mental defect to show that the parents were respectively psychopathic and insane. In fact one is inclined to doubt the diagnosis of mental defect here altogether. The child was apparently normal in schooldays, and later developed a progressive change simulating a dementia. It seems not unlikely that this was a schizophrenia of the simplex type. Of course this also justifies sterilization, but it is poor law to do the right thing on the wrong grounds. One may note also a difference of principle [left side column-width hairline rule over footnote] [footnote](Huntington's) chorea, hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, severe hereditary physical abnormality, severe alcoholism. Under the term "imbecile" is understood in Germany a considerably wider range of mental defect than in England. [end]

Copyright 1999-2004: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; American Philosophical Society; Truman State University; Rockefeller Archive Center/Rockefeller University; University of Albany, State University of New York; National Park Service, Statue of Liberty National Monument; University College, London; International Center of Photography; Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin-Dahlem; and Special Collections, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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