Full text: Problems in eugenics

principal controversialists, two (Fathers Donovan and Leboure) were pro­ 
ponents, three (Fathers de Becker, Rigby, and Schmitt) opponents. The 
arguments were generally in Latin, and centred about these points, viz., 
the right of a Catholic physician to perform the operation of vasectomy or 
castration for any but a pathological reason; the right of an individual to 
submit to such an operation voluntarily for any but a medical necessity; 
the right of the State (from the ecclesiastical point of view) to perman­ 
ently deprive an individual of an inherent and God-given right which he 
would otherwise enjoy by civil law, if society can be protected from his mis­ 
deeds by any other methods; and finally, “is vasectomy a mutilation?” 
The arguments were for the most part theological, and no conclusions appear 
to have been reached on any of these points, both sides leaving off practically 
where they began. The preponderance of Roman Catholic sentiment, how­ 
ever, at the present time is undoubtedly opposed to any form of sterilization 
as a Eugenic measure. In Pennsylvania it is said a sterilization bill was 
defeated in the Legislature solely by the strong opposition of one Roman 
Catholic member, who considered it an unjustifiable mutilation. 
Among social workers, professional and otherwise, there appears to be a 
growing interest in sterilization, but doubt about its practicability. It is 
thought of as more or less brutal. By some the eugenist’s attitude is 
represented as being opposed to humanitarian efforts for the amelioration of 
conditions of life which burden and handicap the masses, and finally sub­ 
merge the “tenth.” Dr. Edward T. Devine, Professor of Sociology in 
Columbia University, in an impassioned address at the annual dinner of the 
Academy of Political Science in New York, recently said : “ There are those 
.... who have been making extraordinary applications of this Eugenics 
idea, who have been telling us that philanthropy, the improvement of social 
conditions, the prevention of child labour, the elimination of infectious 
diseases, and the like, are to be condemned as contrary to the fundamental 
and vital interests of the iace. Just as in the past war, famine and pesti­ 
lence were essential to progress . . . , so now we have the slums, tuber­ 
culosis, typhoid, industrial accidents, child labour, a twelve-hour day, and 
a seven day week . . . performing in our day the same beneficent func­ 
tions.” After a vigorous protest against this doctrine, he closed thus : “ our 
last word is of rehabilitation, reintegration, redemption.” 
The committee has recently received letters from the Governors of Ver­ 
mont and Kentucky asking for information regarding legislation, and 
strongly endorsing the proposition that defectives, degenerates, and con­ 
firmed criminals should be sterilized. Both hope soon to secure legislation 
in their respective States legalizing the operation. From officials in several 
other States inquiries have been received regarding legislation and what has 
been done elsewhere. It seems probable, therefore, that similar laws will 
soon be enacted in other States.

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