A RACIAL DANGER [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
SIR,—It is hardly likely that Mr. Harold Cox can have for- gotten, in writing on such an important subject as sterilization, that some mentally defective children are the offspring of perfectly normal parents, for such is well known. The point is that we have to deal with mental defectives who, on reaching maturity, can propagate their kind, and they are most prolific. All who study the subject know of the enormous influence of heredity ; according to some, two-thirds of all feeble- mindedness are due to that cause. The question is : What is the best means of arresting the great increase in the number of mental defectives ? Mr. Parry considers that segregation is better than sterilization. Those who have considered the matter will agree with him, that is to say, if segregation can be thorough and efficient. My contention is that segregation for all is, at present, impossible. In the last Report of the Board of Control, attention is drawn to the fact that there are many hundreds of urgent cases of mental defectives for whom no vacancies in existing institutions are available. This means degradation, crime, pauperism and disease, with the expense to the community attendant on these conditions.' It is from these that danger arises.
Sterilization, in my opinion, is the only radical treatment to secure diminution in the number of mental defectives. A large majority of experienced witnesses at the Royal Com-s mission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-minded held! the opinion that, in view of the evidence concerning fertility,i the prevention of mentally defective persons from beeoming. parents would tend largely to diminish the number: such persons in the population.
With reference to the remarks of Mr. Parry, I may say (1) The risk of the operation, according to modern methods; is infinitesimal, but even vaccination, inoculation against typhoid, &c., cause slight risk. (2) Sexual capacity remains; and proves the humanity of the operation, for it is not intended to interfere with the ordinary life of the individual.. (3) Sterilization does not improve the mental condition ; although in 236 operations it was followed by no unfavourable symptoms, and improvement in the mental condition was abserved in some. -(4) -Mr. Parry states that " Where steriliza- tion has been tried, it has been a complete failure, and has been abandoned." This is an important statement ; I know of no authority . for it. 'In nine States of America sterilization is -still in force. In 1922 the law -had been carried out in over 3,000 cases, of which over 2,500 had been operated on in the State of 'California.
Sterilization will have no effect on promiscuous intercourse or venereal diseaSe, except that it will stop the birth of illegiti- mate children Who become a burden to the State. Inciden tally it may he noted that the expenditure on the maintenance, supervision-anti treatment of mental patients for the financial year ending in 1924 amounted to nearly seven millions.
In dealing with this subject, sentiment must be put aside, and only that considered which is for the benefit of the State and the future good of our race.--4 .am, Sir, &c., The Athenaeum. M. D.