Heredity and Hope: The Case for Genetic Screening by Ruth Schwartz Cowan

By Ruth Schwartz Cowan

The secrets and techniques locked in our genes are being published, and we discover ourselves either enthused and fearful approximately what that portends. we glance ahead to curing ailment and assuaging suffering—for our kids in addition to for ourselves—but we additionally fear approximately delving too deeply into the double helix. Abuses perpetrated through eugenicists—from involuntary sterilization to murder—continue to taint our emotions approximately genetic screening. but, as Ruth Schwartz Cowan unearths, smooth genetic screening has been practiced for the reason that 1960, reaping benefits thousands of girls and kids worldwide. She persuasively argues that new kinds of screening—prenatal, infant, and service testing—are either morally correct and politically applicable. scientific genetics, outfitted at the hope of folks and physicians to minimize ache and raise own freedom, now not at the wish to “improve the human race,” is actually a completely assorted firm from eugenics. Cowan’s narrative strikes from an account of the interwoven histories of genetics and eugenics within the first 1/2 the 20 th century, to the advance of latest different types of genetic screening after mid-century. It contains illuminating chapters at the usually misunderstood checking out courses for sickle phone anemia, and at the world’s basically mandated premarital screening courses, either one of them at the island of Cyprus. Neither minimizing the trouble of the alternatives that glossy genetics has created for us nor fearing them, Cowan bravely and compassionately argues that we will be able to increase the standard of our personal lives and the lives of our youngsters through the use of the fashionable technological know-how and expertise of genetic screening responsibly. (20080522)

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The kind of medicine they had been taught to practice was not doing much good as tuberculosis raged unchecked, infant mortality remained high, and alcoholism and venereal disease were, they thought, everywhere fraying the social fabric. As advocates of social Darwinism, early-twentieth-century German eu- Many Varieties of Beautiful Inheritance • 29 genicists believed that medical care was actually diminishing the level of public health by sustaining the weak so they could live long enough to reproduce.

Still others felt that segregation (on the English model) would be more effective. 30 • HEREDITY AND HOPE Birth control was surely a very bad idea, they argued, and so was feminism; healthy women should be having as many children as physiologically possible and should be devoting their full attention to the well-being of those children. Venereal disease should certainly be controlled because of its negative effects on children born to infected mothers. ” Perhaps there should also be compulsory marital counseling, so that those who had made dysgenic marriages, unions likely to yield “unfit” offspring, could be encouraged not to reproduce.

Thus, although some people think of Germany as the place in which eugenics flourished and others think of Britain as the place in which it began, when measured by the number and longevity of eugenic programs, eugenics was most successful in the United States. Eugenic Politics in Catholic Countries Political movements can mutate, just as genes can. In both Britain and the United States, Catholics were opponents of eugenics, but in countries dominated by the church there were still active eugenics movements, albeit of a very different sort.

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