Eugenics…not gone but somehow forgotten

Sheet music cover of "Have a Heart", from the musical of the same name.
Sheet music cover of “Have a Heart”, from the musical of the same name.

Eugenics is not new.  It’s been around as long as any other pseudoscience.

Yet somehow, we forget about it.  We push it to the background.  We pretend it doesn’t exist, even as people talk about aborting fetuses that show signs of having disabilities or we run into problems like the one a mother in Philadelphia is going through.

This mother has a 23 year old son with a problem.  His heart.  But that’s okay – while he has a serious heart ailment (a congenital disorder that he was diagnosed with in 2008), it isn’t necessarily fatal.  He could get a transplant.

Except that he can’t get a transplant because a doctor wrote that, “I have recommended against transplant given his psychiatric issues, autism, the complexity of the process, multiple procedures and the unknown and unpredictable effect of steroids on behavior.

The son, who is 23, has PDD (pervasive development disorder, which is on the mild side of the autism spectrum), is “upset by the decision, but optimistic that a transplant could come.”

What makes it even better is that the head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center issued a statement, saying, “The thing to keep in mind is if more of us would sign donor cards, there would be less pressure to reject anybody. It’s the huge shortage of hearts that really drives this problem.”

Now, I hate to disagree with the head of an ethics division, but, no, it’s not that not enough people donate organs.  (Although I do agree that more people need to donate, and I myself am an organ donor…)  The real problem here is that we have unequal care based on, when it all comes down to it, psychiatric issues and autism.  Everyone who has the procedure risks “multiple procedures and the unknown and unpredictable effect of steroids on behavior.”  The 23 year old man is not alone in those risks.  But autism…that’s the kicker.

Why is it okay to give a transplant to someone who is “normal” but not someone who has a disability?  If he was blind or deaf, would they drop him out of the pool?  Or do we only feel that it’s right to discriminate against those with cognitive and developmental disorders?

This really harkens right back to my other blog about Oprah.com calling children with autism “weird” and “creepy.”  If we don’t understand something, we try to get rid of it.

And that’s where the whole eugenics thing rears its ugly head again.

Now, you might not know what eugenics is.  So let’s try to get a balanced view.

PBS.org has a great article at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dh23eu.html  They say, among other things, that eugenics was “presented as a mathematical science that could be used to predict the traits and behaviors of humans, and in a perfect world, to control human breeding so that people with the best genes would reproduce and thus improve the species.”  It sounds…interesting.  But, of course, there’s more to it than that.  “In 1923, organizers founded the American Eugenics Society, and it quickly grew to 29 chapters around the country. At fairs and exhibitions, eugenicists spread the word and hosted “fitter family” and “better baby” competitions to award blue ribbons to the finest human stock — not unlike the awards for prize bull and biggest pumpkin. Not only did eugenicists promote better breeding, they wanted to prevent poor breeding or the risk of it. That meant keeping people with undesireable traits in their heritage (including alcoholism, pauperism, or epilepsy) separate from others or, where law allowed, preventing them from reproducing.”

And it hasn’t gone away.  Future Generations has a website up at http://www.eugenics.net/ where they talk about their goals.  “Future Generations is about humanitarian eugenics.  Humanitarian eugenics strives to leave a genuine legacy of love to future generations: good health, high intelligence, and noble character.”  They link to such articles are “IQ Will Put You In Your Place” and “The Consequences of Variable Intelligence” and “Evolution, Eugenics, and God’s Will.”  Go check them out at your leisure if you haven’t had anything to eat…

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but eugenics by any other name still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

But there is something you can do to help with the boy being denied his heart.  Go to Change.org and sign the petition to help Paul get his heart.