Sterilization and Research

There is no doubt that the sterilization law and the whole social policy bound up with it will have a profound effect on research in Germany. Certain not entirely desirable effects have shown themselves already. The fear of being notified as a suitable case for sterilization does operate as a cause of distrust and reluctance to give information among the subjects of a psychiatric research. In my own research in Munich, which was into the relatives of manic-depressives, I found an extraordinary willingness among these people to come to the institute, often at considerable personal inconvenience, for examination, and an equally great readiness to give full and sincere information about their relatives. I am sure this could not be paralleled in England. It is no doubt largely due to much greater interest in and knowledge of this subject in Germany, and the popular German conviction of its social importance. Quite a number of the relatives I saw brought family trees and documents extending back over several generations. Nevertheless there was quite a proportion of my informants who required very persistent and express reassurance that it was out of the question that the information obtained from them should be used in a way they would not like. Of the motives that influenced those persons who would not reply to any attempts to get in touch with them it is impossible to speak.

    The attitude of different research workers in regard to this matter of research versus sterilization varied greatly in different research institutions. In one place I found a steadfast conviction among the more responsible workers that it was indeed undesirable that the material obtained by research should be used directly for extraneous ends, or that the public should be allowed to get the impression it could be so used. In another place I found a very curious quibbling attitude, that while certain activities of the institute were of the nature of pure research and so the data obtained thereby would not be used to provide sterilization notifications, yet other activities were not so purely research ones, and there this dispensation would not hold. For example, were subjects admitted to the institute for anthropological and medical examination, and were they at the same time to receive anything in the nature of treatment (e.g. the continuation of a diabetic diet) then a duty to notify could not be evaded. The institute in question was also intended to develop into the biological-statistical centre of its city, and into the local marriage-advice bureau, and these activities were regarded as being similarly not covered by the term research. In other words there was a definite determination among the workers at this place to use their institute as much as possible for the extraneous purpose of providing candidates for sterilization. When one learned that the material for these anthropological and other investigations consisted practically solely of voluntary subjects who had been secured by the fair words of sisters at clinics, social workers, etc., one was left with a very disagreeable impression.

    There are other important aspects of German eugenics beside the sterilization law. Eugenic qualifications are insisted on by the government for applicants for appointment to the State services-e.g. for the post office, State bank, railways, etc., as well as for the civil services proper, and for members of the S.S. and S.A. These are briefly that the applicant shall not be non-Aryan nor hereditarily tainted ("erblich belastet").

    The definition of what constitutes hereditary taint has not yet been clearly laid down. Luxenburger has claimed that it should be interpreted in its more strict scientific sense, and only those persons regarded as "belastet" who according to present ideas must be the carriers of a pathogenic gene. These would then be only: those showing the hereditary abnormality; or the monozygotic twin of such a one; the children of parents one or both of whom have shown a recessive abnormality; the parents of a child with such a recessive abnormality; in the case of sex-linked abnormalities all children of an affected mother, the daughters of an affected father. Luxenburger has difficulty with the siblings of schizophrenics, and suggests that only those who themselves are schizoid psychopaths should be regarded as tainted, not for instance those who are psychopaths of a non-schizoid kind. The clinical distinction would be one of some difficulty. He remarks that "In principle even the hereditarily tainted [erbkrank] families are to be encouraged, apart from those members who are to be regarded as 'belastet.' " The whole family with all its members may not be regarded as "belastet"; the individual members must be considered separately, to see if they come under his rules. Luxenburger's view, however, does not seem to be the official one, at least in regard to the administration of the marriage loan.