Empathy and Eugenics on the Supreme Court
Posted by Pete Shanks (BioPoliticalTimes)
In 1927, involuntary sterilization was legitimized by the U.S. Supreme Court, in the notorious case of Buck vs. Bell, which stains the reputation of the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes. Technically, that decision still stands, though the laws it upheld have been overturned.
President Obama was absolutely correct when he said that "justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook, it is also about how laws affect the daily realities of peoples lives," and went on to describe "empathy" as "an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes." In today's Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik pushes back hard against criticism of "empathy" as a qualification, using Buck vs. Bell as his case study:
Supporters of eugenics were often distinguished people. But they were arrogant and blind to the worth of (some) others. That's a continuing problem; empathy is a good antidote.