Student Perspectives

Genetics and Modern Eugenics by medical student Amanda Broderick

Posted by Sheldon Rubenfeld on December 21, 2016

Few people realize that eugenics was the driving force behind the Nazis’ political philosophy of “Applied Biology.” Even fewer realize the essential contributions to eugenics by the United States, the world’s leader in eugenics. Indiana’s legislature was the first in the world to legalize involuntary sterilization, for example, and at least 12 countries had legalized involuntary sterilization before Nazi Germany did so in 1933. America provided legal, moral, and philanthropic support for Nazi eugenicists prior to the outbreak of WWII. German propagandists also highlighted the failure of American medical schools to admit African-Americans and could have also pointed to the exclusion of African-American doctors to the American Medical Association. Medical schools often had quotas for Jews and Italians—Edmund Pellegrino, one of the world’s great bioethicist physicians was denied admission because of his Italian heritage—and Nazi propagandists also noted that our Jim Crow laws defined African-Americans much more broadly than the Nuremberg Laws defined a Jew. Amanda Broderick discusses modern eugenics in her essay.

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