Medicine: Furor About Sterilization

The patient, a former salesgirl in a Baltimore five-and-dime store, married young and had two children. But after each birth she had a nervous breakdown. Estranged from her husband, she had three more children illegitimately, and each time suffered what psychiatrists call a "schizophrenic reaction, catatonic type." Still only 25, she is now at Maryland's Springfield State Hospital. Her brothers and sisters and her husband agreed that for her own good she should be sterilized. In a lucid interval she agreed.

Most states have laws specifically authorizing sterilization when it is dictated by medical necessity (28 go further and allow it for...

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