Disability and the right to life

“if able-bodied society were to accept that those with disabilities are equal human beings with rights, they would also have to abandon the notion that screening and abortion are benefits to society, and that the earlier a handicapped person is killed off the better for all concerned.” (Alison Davis 1987, p. 287)

the decision to abort a fetus may well be grounded in the insight that the forms of social and economic support needed to make that life livable are lacking.” (Judith Butler 2009, p 22) Continue reading “Disability and the right to life”

Galton and Eugenics

“The word eugenics was coined in 1883 by the British writer and pioneer of statistics, Sir Francis Galton (1820-1911), and defined as the “improvement or repair of the qualities of future generations, either physically or mentally”. For Galton, the chief criterion of improvement was ‘civic worthiness’, or the value of a person to the community. Galton understood worthiness to include ‘physique’ (including good health), ‘ability’ and ‘character,’ and in his Hereditary Genius of 1869 argued that ’eminence’ in lawyers, statesmen, scientists, writers, musicians, scholars – and even wrestlers – was hereditary.” (Badcock, 2003) Continue reading “Galton and Eugenics”

Selling Murder: The Secret Propaganda Films of the Third Reich

This documentary film is available online here. It is a filmic record of how the Third Reich murdered 200,000 mentally and physically disabled people by deliberate starvation, lethal medication and toxic gas, while subjecting another 350,000 to compulsory sterilisation between 1933 and 1939. The Nazis falsely labelled the disabilities as hereditary, a genetic threat, thereby condoning their Rassenpolitik of cleansing the German race of undesirable traits. They claimed that disabled people had been permitted to survive in defiance of the laws of natural selection, that they were unproductive and meaningless as well as being an economic drain. Continue reading “Selling Murder: The Secret Propaganda Films of the Third Reich”

From Eugenics to Patents: Genetics, Law, and Human Rights

In an article that discusses eugenics, its modern form of genetics and the consequent legal and human rights issues raised, science historian Daniel Kevles points out that after the turn of the century, eugenics was pretty much practised everywhere, and although it is often dismissed as a crank movement, it must be remembered that “…science is in any day what scientists do and defend” (Kevles 2011, p 326). The possibility to improve people genetically is still a goal, and one that is rapidly becoming a reality owing to advances in the field of genetics. Continue reading “From Eugenics to Patents: Genetics, Law, and Human Rights”