Involuntary Sterilization and the Rights of the Mildly Retarded

  • Ruth Macklin
  • Willard Gaylin
Part of the The Hastings Center Series in Ethics book series (HCSE)


In discussing the involuntary-sterilization court cases, some members of our group were particularly concerned with the discrepancies between decisions in different states, noting a lack of a consistent moral or philosophical point of view. The question of whether or not involuntary sterilization ought to be allowed under any circumstances was broached, revealing a number of differences of opinion among the group members as to the possible existence of circumstances in which the retarded might indeed “benefit” from sterilization. A particularly telling debate arose over the difficult matter of judging in advance the ability of a retarded person to function as an adequate parent.


Moral Community Rear Child Competent Parent Heterosexual Intercourse Genetic Rationale 


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  1. 1.
    J. R. Kramer, “The Right Not to be Mentally Retarded,” in M. Kindred, J. Cohen, D. Penrod, and T. Shaffer, eds., The Mentally Retarded Citizen and the Law (New York: Free Press, 1976).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Hastings Center 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Macklin
    • 1
  • Willard Gaylin
    • 2
  1. 1.Albert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA
  2. 2.The Hastings CenterHastings-on-HudsonUSA

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