- Paperback: 328 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 22, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195135393
- ISBN-13: 978-0195135398
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1 x 6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Black Stork: Eugenics and the Death of "Defective" Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures since 1915 1st Edition
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"A veritable page-turner whose unifying narrative thread is nothing less than infanticide....The scope of the book is as impressive as its argument."--Journal of the History of Medicine
From the Back Cover
In the late 1910s Dr. Harry J. Haiselden, a prominent Chicago surgeon, electrified the nation by allowing the deaths of at least six infants he diagnosed as "defectives". Seeking to publicize his efforts to eliminate the "unfit", he displayed the dying infants to journalists, wrote about them for the Hearst newspapers, and starred in a feature film about his crusade. Prominent Americans from Clarence Darrow to Helen Keller rallied to his support. The Black Stork tells this startling story, based on newly-rediscovered sources and long-lost motion pictures, in order to illuminate many broader controversies. The book shows how efforts to improve human heredity (eugenics) became linked with mercy-killing (euthanasia) and with race, class, gender, and ethnic hatreds. It documents how mass culture changed the meaning of medical concepts like "heredity" and "disease", and how medical controversies helped shape the commercial mass media. It demonstrates how cultural values influence science, and how scientific claims of objectivity have shaped modern culture. While focused on the formative years of early 20th century America, The Black Stork traces these issues from antiquity to the rise of Nazism, and to the "Baby Doe", assisted suicide, and human genome initiative debates of today. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
This book is one of the most unique stories I have read in the onslaught of material on the eugenicists and their prejudicial science. Pernick is a historical biographer of medical practicioners and of the early films produced promoting eugenic ideals. During the early 1900's an American physician, Haiselden, very publicly 'allowed' a new-born infant with disabilities to die through withholding food, water, and surgical treatment. This occurrence was not an unusual one for physicians in general. Infanticide had occurred on one level or another, by physicians, midwives, and parents for years especially when infants were disabled and the families were poor. The difference lay in how this particular physican handled the media attention he received. This man courted the media to promote his views on physician assisted killing when children were born with disabilities or deformities. He went even farther and 'starred' in a film which portrayed the situation and the accompanying ethics as held by eugenicists and those who proposed euthanasia for the unwanted in the United States.
The history of early film-making coincides with the major years of influence of American eugenicists. This is history which has been forgotten, which is not on display at the Smithsonian museum, and is only mentioned by the Eugenics ARchive at Cold Spring Harbor. This book is of deep historical importance, and the author does a wonderful job of tying in the influence of the media and science on social movements. Pernick does an outstanding job of presenting the facts involved with as little emotional or critical writing, so the reader are free to develop their own opinions. The research and the restoration of these films (still pictures from the film are included) to the American public is a phenomenol job and this book should be on the list of recommendations for those in biomedical ethics, in medical care, disability rights activists, and film enthusiasts. It is only by remembering this history, and American participation in it, that we can even hope to avoid this from happening again, especially with the completion of the Human Genome Project and the push for physician assisted suicide, as well as the promotion of utilitarian ethics in a world of scarce medical resources...
P.S. I don't understand the Amazon reviewer who criticized this book for its supposedly poor writing style. I am, alas, all too familiar with poor academic writing. Pernick, the author of this book, is first-rate, though admittedly, this is not a book for children.