The Black Stork

The Black Stork : Eugenics and the Death of `Defective' Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures since 1915

3.73 (49 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 books 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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 328 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 22.86mm | 430.91g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • black and white photographs
  • 0195135393
  • 9780195135398
  • 2,169,655

Table of contents

PART 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. Whoe Decides?: The Ironies of Professional Power ; PART II: PUBLICITY ; 6. Mass Media Medicine ; 7. Eugenics of Film ; 8. The Black Stork ; 9. Medicine, Media, and Memory
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Review quote

an appetite-whetting prelude to his intended larger study of American health films ... This is a case study which forcibly demonstrates the advantages to medical history of taking popular media seriously. We can await his promised larger study with some eagerness. * Timothy M. Boon, Medical History, January 1998, 42 * an impressive study with broad implications for both historical and contemporary controversies ... he offers a highly original analysis of the complex relationship between the early public health movement and the development of American mass media ... a study rich in historical irony and nuance ... 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. * Leila Zenderland, California State University, Fullerton, Bull. Hist. Med. 1997, 71 * excellent book ... Pernick gives us an essential historical perspective on two pressing issues: the possible abuses of new forms of genetic technology and physician-assisted suicide. Pernick's book breaks important new ground. There is little to criticize ... It is clearly written and copiously referenced. * Barron H. Lerner, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, The New England Journal of Medicine, August 1996 * Scientific readers of this book are likely to be most interested in the insights they can glean for current biomedical debates. * Dine B. Paul, Nature, Vol. 382, July 1996 * Advance praise: "The Black Stork is a most frightening tale of medicine run amok. Martin Pernick's narrative of Dr. Harry J. Haiselden's fin-de-siecle crusade for the euthenasia of `defective' children is a tale of the tangled path way of science in its pursuit of social ends. Haiselden's eugenic fantasy was a perfect race of `undamaged' humans. 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
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Rating details

49 ratings
3.73 out of 5 stars
5 20% (10)
4 43% (21)
3 29% (14)
2 6% (3)
1 2% (1)
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