BUCK V. BELL. EUGENICS IN THE UNITED STATES’ SUPREME COURT
The article concerns one of the most infamous decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States (Buck versus Bell). The verdict was based on the principles of eugenics and affirmed the constitutionality of the sterilization of “feeble-minded” persons. The rationale for this decision was the right of the society to demand certain sacrifices from its members in the name of common good. According to Oliver Wendell Holmes, who authored the verdict, the state has a right to stop “imbeciles” from reproducing in order to prevent the danger of the society’s slide into the “swamp of incompetence”. Individual autonomy and liberty, enshrined in the Constitution, does not include the right to produce “degenerate offspring”. The decision was deeply rooted in pseudoscientific eugenic theories concerning the genetic transmitability of “feeble-mindedness”. Today Holmes’ verdict raises a fully deserved moral outrage and is universally condemned as ethically odious.