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Sterilization Compensation: Not enough

Of course we should compensate the remaining victims of NC’s sterilization program.  But payment – in whatever amount – will never be enough.  Our state also needs to recognize and remember one of our biggest collective failures so that we can try and make sure it never happens again.  How?  Well, over the years we’ve had some suggestions:

1.  Back in 2007 I proposed the museum exhibit that the state Department of Health and Human Services put together with an excellent and very compact overview of NC’s eugenics sterilization program be given a prominent and permanent home at the NC Museum of History.  It’s great to learn about the Wright Brothers, but there are other aspects to NC’s history we must never forget.  How can we learn from our history if great exhibits like this remained stored away and quickly forgotten?

2.  As Adam Linker has suggested, why tuck a historical marker about the eugenics program on a side street when it could go on the Capitol Square?

3.  There are other ways to remember.  One of the most prominent social workers and reformers in the country, Ellen Winston, who served as the first national Commissioner of Welfare in the Johnson Administration was a prime mover in NC’s eugenics program.  Her role and the role of the institutions she represented like UNC and the state welfare program should more fully explored.

What are some of the consequences of not facing up to this history?  Well, a few years ago the NC Medical Care Commission allowed a experiment of a fake blood substitute (Polyheme) to go forward in Durham where victims picked up by ambulance were involuntarily given this experimental fluid – and continued involuntarily receiving it in the hospital.   Only one problem with this involuntary experiment on Durham’s population:

“Scarier was the study’s safety data, which went against Polyheme in every way measured. Patients treated with Polyheme reported more serious adverse events, more heart attacks and greater risks to the kidneys than the control patients.”

Let’s be clear.  Just a few years ago people in Durham involuntarily received a “treatment” that was highly experimental, to which they or their families never consented – even after consent could be gotten in the hospital – and, as a result of which, some of them most likely died or became very, very ill.  Now tell me we don’t need to better remember our shameful NC history of involuntary medical procedures.

3 Comments

  1. QUID

    January 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    I recommend these people get nothing, although their sterilization undoubtly saved tax payers millions. If they were not sterilized the state would have untold thousands more now in prison and/or on welfare >. and thousands and thousand more in coming generations.

  2. Adam Searing

    January 11, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Well QUID, when they come to sterilize you or your children because someone in an office somewhere decided that you weren’t “fit”, I hope you comply gracefully. I, for one, will be fighting for a state that stays the hell out of the most personal decisions in people’s lives, whether it is having children, marriage, or whatever.

  3. Jack

    January 11, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Interesting how people want government out of their lives unless it is someone else’s life. In QUID’s mind the bottom line is more important than a human life.

    But QUID is only following Speaker Thom Tillis’ directive by looking-down on those deemed unworthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He’s just following orders.

    This is how it starts.