I write my monthly blogs on LanceFogan.com, 127 to date, in order to raise epilepsy awareness. One percent of all Americans and one percent of world citizens live with epilepsy and they include all levels of intellectual and physical abilities.
In the early 19th and 20th centuries epilepsy was lumped in with individuals considered to have mental retardation, physical handicaps, and genetic disorders. A frightening fact is that these individuals, including those with epilepsy, could be sterilized against their consent and without their knowledge in more than 30 American states to “stop spreading bad genes.” This was achieved by state-ordered-law. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed this injustice to continue beginning in the 1920’s. These state laws finally changed in the 1970’s.
Virginia’s forced sterilization law in 1924 authorized involuntary sterilization to rid society of "idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness or epilepsy." 1 Carrie Buck, age 20, along with her mother, Emma, was an inmate in the Virginia Colony for the Epileptic and Feebleminded. Dr. Albert Priddy, the institution’s superintendent, authorized Carrie’s sterilization without her personal consent. She was the first person to be so subjected to “end her bad gene-line. The Virginia Times Daily, May 2, 1927, wrote that Carrie Buck had the mental age of 9 years. Others wrote that she was “dull but not stupid.”
Adam Cohen's recent book about the Buck case, This poor young woman, Carrie Buck, was said to really have nothing wrong with her physically or mentally. She had been a victim of a terrible sexual assault. After a brief hearing she was declared feebleminded and was sent off to the Virginia Colony for the Epileptic and Feebleminded. Subsequently she was surgically sterilized. takes its name from the terms eugenicists used to categorize the "feebleminded."2 In it, he revisits the ruling and explores the connection between the American eugenics’ movement of “erasing bad genes” and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. Cohen notes that the instinct to "demonize" people who are different is still prevalent in the U.S., particularly in the debate over immigration.
The American Eugenics Society promoted ideas of racial betterment and genetic education through public lectures, conferences, publications and exhibits at county and state fairs — like this chart labeled "The Triangle of Life" from the Kansas Free Fair in 1926.
Epilepsy does not correlate with mental retardation although these conditions may coexist. A seizure is but a symptom of a brain dysfunction, it is not linked to intelligence or mental status.
- The United States Once Sterilized Tens of Thousands –Here’s How the Supreme Court Allowed It. Cato Institute COMMENTARY JANUARY 27, 2016. By Trevor Burrus
- Cohen, Adam. Imbeciles. Published March 1, 2016