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Foster Kennedy's Article:

An Example from the U.S. Eugenic's Movement

Foster Kennedy's 1942 American Journal of Psychiatry article is an historical example of advocacy of the eugenics movement by mental health professionals in the U.S.

In May, 1941, Foster Kennedy addressed the 97th annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, and his remarks were published the following year in the American Psychiatric Association's journal of record.

In "The Problem of Social Control of the Congenital Defective: Education, Sterilization, Euthanasia" (American Journal of Psychiatry, July, 1942, vol. 99, pages 13-16), Kennedy stated that "We have too many feebleminded people among us. . ."

Kennedy advocated the solution endorsed by many in the eugenics movement up to that time: "I believe when the defective child shall have reached the age of five years . . . that the case should be considered under law by a competent medical board." The board would be authorized "to relieve that defective . . . of the agony of living."

This would enable the race to eliminate that which was ugly and pass on the beautiful: "Should the social organism grow up and forward to the desire to relieve decently from living the utterly unfit... then... thereafter civilization will pass on and on in beauty."

The journal printed an editorial following Kennedy's article, endorsing Kennedy's approach and emphasizing the important role that all psychiatrists could play in letting parents know that euthanizing severely disabled children was humane and that it was kind to put an end to what Kennedy had termed "nature's mistakes."

I would urge that those interested in this topic to read the documents of the U.S. eugenics movement first-hand.

 

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