Full text: Problems in eugenics

A. Bluhm.Medicine and Eugenics.393 
still further effects which are of signification for the continuance of the race. 
It is undoubted that a too prolonged labour is prejudicial to the vital 
power of the child. Even a normal birth presents great dangers to a child’s 
life.If the act is delayed through the diminished capacity of the mother, 
even a child with a normal power of resistance may succumb to it. 
Indeed, specially well-developed children who frequently, as such, are 
the cause of the delay, appear to run especial risks. 
Here the shortening of the labour through medical intervention, even 
though there is a normal natural ability to bear, protects the race, not only 
from a loss of numbers, but from a loss of quality, without furthering the 
increase of unfitness to bear. 
On the other hand, sometimes considerable injuries result through surgical 
intervention to the child’s body, particularly to the skull, which, though 
they do not lead to immediate death, may bring with them great disturbances 
to the affected organ, particularly to the brain. People are not at the 
present time agreed as to how great an extent this takes place as a matter 
of fact. 
According to the latest investigations, the significance of injuries at 
birth for the origin of mental diseases appears not to be so great as it was 
formerly supposed to be. 
Nevertheless, I could substantiate n instrumental births (by forceps) 
among the histories of 215 patients who, in the spring of 1905, were in the 
Swiss Institution for Epileptics and Idiots at Zurich. (Distinct injuries to 
the skull had taken place in seven cases.) This is a percentage of 5.1, which 
considerably surpasses the usual one of 2-3%. The high percentage of 
premature births in the same institution (7%) was very striking. 
This observation appears to me to be not unimportant in judging of 
the significance for the race of artificial premature births. 
One might think at first sight that, apart from the possibility of the 
transmission of inability to bear, this operation might be altogether approved 
from the standpoint of eugenics. 
For premature children have to undergo a much more drastic “ process 
of selection ” than those born at the right time, and only those who are able 
to withstand remain alive. Unfortunately, we know almost nothing of 
their later fate. 
Should it be proved that they are subjected in a greater degree to mental 
disturbances than those born full-term, then artificial premature births 
should, in the interests of the race, be forbidden to Obstetrics. 
The frequent appearance of rickets among the inmates of the lunatic 
asylum at Klingenmiinster, in the Palatinate of the Rhine, appears to me 
worthy of notice—(this I was able to substantiate from their histories)—so 
much the more because in this province breast feeding, which militates 
against rickets, is very extensive.

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