Bioethics Blogs

Forgotten Stories of the Eugenic Age #4, Part 2: The Black Stork Rises: Dr. Haiselden

Dr. Harry Haiselden in The Black Stork, 1917

[Forgotten Stories of the Eugenic Age is a blog series exploring the lesser-known ways that eugenics affected and engaged American lives during the first half of the twentieth century.]

[This is a continuation of Part 1.]

One of Dr. Harry Haiselden’s refrains when defending his behavior in the Baby Bollinger case was that doctors everywhere routinely decided to let hopeless defectives die; he only wanted to illuminate the practice for the public. Yet, the doctor seemed to desire the spotlight not only for eugenic medicine but also for himself.

After the Baby Bollinger case entered the news, Haiselden was invited to speak at social clubs, improvement societies, and professional organizations. On November 29, 1915, not two weeks after the baby’s death, he gave a speech about the case and “defective” children generally in between the second and third acts of a controversial race improvement play called “The Unborn.” In early December, he addressed the Chicago Physicians, Dentists, and Pharmacists Association, where he reaffirmed his actions in the Bollinger case and expressed his commitment to sterilization of the unfit, including all those who had been confined to an institution for the “feebleminded” for more than one year.

In an acknowledgement of Dr. Haiselden’s rising celebrity and a demonstration of the cultural reach of the Baby Bollinger case, the January 10, 1916, edition of the Los Angeles Times “Pen Points” column, consisting of a series of pithy observations by the staff, included the following: “Dr. Haiselden has been summoned to New York to study a ‘defective’ case and to be the guest of honor at the opening of a play.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.