What is Eugenics?

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Eugenics is defined as “a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed (1).” The principles of eugenics have been used in many different countries for various reasons. In the United States, eugenics reached its peak in the pre-World War II period. It was believed that the most efficient way to deal with social problems, such as mental illness, poverty and crime, was to inhibit reproduction among people with such characteristics. Involuntary sterilization laws were enacted in many states. The United Kingdom’s government Mental Deficiency Committee stated in a report that “birth control was the best method to eliminate the hoards (sic) of weak, unhealthy, and tainted poor children whose dependence on tax-supported welfare programs prevented the overburdened middle classes from producing more children of good quality (1).” The goals of the eugenics movement were “the 'improvement of the human stock' and the avoidance of financial drain on society (1).” Supporters argued that people could be enhanced, and thus 'improved', by genetic treatments and manipulation. They maintained that if they could select children that were not disadvantaged, then they should.

Nazi Germany established numerous strong racial laws in 1933. The Nazi Hereditary Health Court was formed and approved many eugenics proposals. These became increasingly inhumane as time progressed. Therefore, euthanasia of the insane, mentally deficient, as well as others judged to be undesirable began. After the Nazis labeled these atrocities as “eugenics,” the word became associated with evil or discrimination and has been mostly replaced by more friendly terms, such as “counseling in human gen...

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