twenty years (1948 – 1966) the country that brought us Pearl Harbor, the Rape
of Nanking, medical experiments on POWs and sex slaves had brutal eugenics
was reported by The Japanese Times that thousands of nonconsenting men, women, and children were
parliamentary report from Japan has revealed that approximately 25,000 people
were sterilized under the country’s former eugenics laws, the majority of whom
did not consent. Some of the victims were children.
65% of the people sterilized were forced to undergo the procedures. Children as
young as nine years old were among the victims, and many of them believed they
were being treated for a legitimate illness.”
intellectual disabilities, mental illness, or hereditary disorders were among
those forcibly sterilized, as the Japanese government wanted to prevent the
births of so-called ‘inferior’ children. Japanese politicians also wanted to
cut population rates due to food shortages after World War II. Though the law
ended in 1966, eugenic propaganda continued to spread long after; The Japan
Times cited a high school textbook from the 1970s which said the government was
working on the ‘country’s eugenics to improve and enhance the genetic
predisposition of the entire public.’”
The United States of America had its own eugenics laws.
As I wrote in The “Living Constitution and the Right to Die (Amazon and other
callous remark of Justice O.W. Holmes, Jr.— “Three generations of imbeciles are
enough.”— was made in his less than
three-page majority (8–1) opinion in the 1927 United States Supreme Court case
of Carrie Buck v. Bell, Superintendent of the State Colony for
Epileptics and Feeble Minded."
below are the relevant parts of Holmes’s opinion for the Court. [The italics,
ellipses, and bracketed words are mine.]
Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.
superintendent of the State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble Minded, was
ordered to perform the operation of salpingectomy upon Carrie Buck … for the
purpose of making her sterile. * * *
Buck is a feeble-minded white woman who was committed to the State Colony…. She
is the daughter of a feeble-minded mother in the same institution, and the
mother of an illegitimate feeble-minded child.
was eighteen years old at the time of the trial of her case ….
Act of Virginia … recites that the health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted in
certain cases by the sterilization of mental defectives, under careful safeguard,
etc.; that the sterilization may be effected in males by vasectomy and in
females by salpingectomy, without serious pain or substantial danger to life;
that the Commonwealth is supporting in various institutions many defective
persons who if now discharged would become
a menace but if incapable of procreating might be discharged with safety
and become self-supporting with benefit to themselves and to society; and that experience has shown that heredity plays an important part in the
transmission of insanity, imbecility, etc.
statute then enacts that whenever the superintendent of certain institutions
including the abovenamed State Colony shall be of opinion that it is for the
best interest of the patients and of
society that an inmate under his care should be sexually sterilized, he may
have the operation performed upon any patient afflicted with hereditary forms
of insanity, imbecility, etc., on complying with the very careful provisions by
which the act protects the patients from possible abuse. [My emphasis.]
party may apply to the [Virginia] Supreme Court of Appeals, which, if it grants
the appeal, is to hear the case upon the record of the trial in the Circuit
Court and may enter such order as it thinks the Circuit Court should have
entered. There can be no doubt that so far as procedure is concerned the rights
of the patient are most carefully considered, and as every step in this case
was taken in scrupulous compliance with the statute and after months of observation, there is no
doubt that in that respect the plaintiff has had due process.
Please note the following sentence’s dichotomy between procedu[ral] and substantive law, which, as we shall see, play a crucial role in why
Americans have no constitutional right to die.
[plaintiff’s] attack is not upon the [statute’s] procedure but upon the substantive
law. It seems to be contended that in no circumstances could such an order be
justified. It certainly is contended that the order cannot be justified upon
the existing grounds. The judgment [of the Virginia court] finds the facts that
have been recited and that Carrie Buck “is the probable potential parent of socially
inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually
sterilized without detriment to her general health and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by
her sterilization . . . . * * * We have seen more than once that the public
welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives [see In Memoriam and Selective Draft Law Cases, above. [Emphasis and bracketed words are
would be strange if it [the public welfare] could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the
State for these lesser sacrifices …
in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if
instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them
starve for their imbecility, society
can prevent those who are manifestly
unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory
vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough. [Emphasis and bracketed words are
does Holmes’s opinion reek of a defense of eugenics. It has been estimated that
as many as 70,000 Americans, men and women alike, were sterilized until 1944,
most of them because of the widespread belief that eugenics was a solution to
reduce reproduction of certain “undesirables.”
Bell has never been overruled by the
Supreme Court of the United States.
information about Carrie Buck and Buck
v. Bell, see Jennifer Senior’s March
6, 2016, New York Times review, Imbeciles on the Supreme Court and Justice Not for All by Adam Cohen. The following quotations are from Ms. Senior’s
review. [Bracketed words are mine].
Buck was neither epileptic nor feebleminded. As time would prove, she was of
perfectly average intelligence. She was simply uneducated and luckless—a poor
white girl from
who’d had a baby at 17, most likely because she’d been raped by the nephew of
her foster mother. Rather than risking scandal, her guardians thought it best
to get rid of her.
Nor was Ms. Buck part of three generations of so-called
all the tools to stem the tide of feeblemindedness, sterilization was by far
the most efficient. During the Progressive Era, a number of states had enacted
compulsory sterilization laws, including California and Connecticut. So bullish
was Dr. Priddy to do the same for Virginia that he worked in concert with a
methodical, meticulous local lawmaker, Aubrey Strode, to design a statute that
would withstand the test of the highest court of the land. Ms. Buck was the
learn early on that Ms. Buck’s lawyer, Irving Whitehead, had close personal and
professional ties to the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded—the
superintendent paid his legal fees—which meant he [the lawyer] made no efforts
to mount a serious defense for his client.
Holmes [was] himself an eager eugenicist, as were a few of his Supreme Court colleagues.
too are many of today’s politicians, academics, teachers, physicians, writers,
and others who yield coercive power.