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 diagnozed 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. This work tells his story, using 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 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, this work traces these issues from antiquity to the rise on Nazism, and to the "Baby Doe", "assisted suicide": and human geonome initiative debates of today.
"In this excellent book, Martin Pernick has resurrected the long-forgotten story of the Bollinger baby, Haiselden, and his movie, which was entitled The Black Stork. In so doing, Pernick gives us an essential historical perspective on two pressing issues: the possible abuses of new forms of genetic technology and physician-assisted suicide....[The] book breaks important new ground....By showing how eugenics was portrayed in the media and on film,
Pernick gives a much more nuanced treatment of the topic than previous authors....There is little to criticize...Clearly written and copiously referenced."--Barron H. Lerner (Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons) in The New England Journal of Medicine
"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
"Fascinating...A thoughtful and comprehensive review of the history of eugenics...It will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the history of medicine, ethics, social policy, and film."
"Pernick's rich analysis of The Black Stork breaks new ground, for it successfully addresses contemporary concerns while also shedding significant new light on the early eugenics movement, the early film industry, and the surprising connections between the two."--Bulletin of the History of Medicine
"For those interested in the history of eugenics and euthanasia in the United States, Pernick's book is a must...In terms of its attention to the influence of medical ideas on mass culture and of film on medicine, this book is a landmark."--Annals of Internal Medicine
"Pernick has done a remarkable job of accumulating and analyzing...material...Pernick describes the linkage of eugenics, euthanasia, and films in a lucid and engaging way....The Black Stork is an excellent book. Scholars, students, and other people interested in disablity studies will find it engaging, eye-opening, and relevant."--American Journal on Mental Retardation
"A most frightening tale of medicine run amok. Martin Pernick's narrative of Dr. Harry J. Haiselden's fin-de-siecle crusade for the euthanasia of 'defective' children is a tale of the tangled pathway of science in its pursuit of social ends. Since these questions have arisen in more sophisticated form with the knowledge achieved daily through the human genome project, Pernick's narrative is a strong warning about the slippery slope of determining what
life is worth living."--Sander L. Gilman, University of Chicago
"This is an excellent book whose appeal should extend to general readers interested in film and the public role of science, as well as to historians of medicine and film and to social and cultural historians."--Journal of Social History
"...Pernick's study is highly original and should interest social and cultural historians as well as film historians."--American Historical Review
I. Witholding Treatment
1: The Birth of a Controversy
2: Contexts to the Conflict
3: Identifying the Unfit: Biology and Culture in Eugenic Constructions of Hereditary Disease
4: Eliminating the Unfit: Euthanasia and Eugenics
5: Who Decides?: The Ironies of Professional Power
6: Mass Media Medicine
7: Eugenics on Film
8: The Black Stork
9: Medicine, Media, and Memory