Medicine: Sterilization & Heredity

When is sterilization socially and morally justified to prevent the transmission of feeblemindedness or other handicaps to offspring? No answer is universally agreed upon, because medical geneticists do not know with certainty what defects can be passed on from generation to generation. There is even doubt, in many cases, whether the children of mentally defective parents are themselves mentally defective because of the unfavorable background of their early life or because of defective genes. In the U.S. 28 states have laws permitting sterilization for the mentally ill or defective confined in institutions. In...

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