Sterilise the “unfit”, British sociologist says

A British sociologist and health scientist argued recently that the ‘unfit’ should be sterilised because they are not able to raise children responsibly. Professor David Marsland, of the Brunel University, London, and the University of Buckingham, commented on Aug 26 on the BBC Radio 4 series Iconoclasts – a program touted as a place to “think the unthinkable”.

Marsland’s definition of ‘unfit’ includes drug addicts, alcoholics and people with psychological problems. He stated on the program that they should be permanently sterilised in order to prevent abuse and neglect of children, when these conditions persist for over five years in the individual. He added that "Perpetrators should be prevented from producing any more children and from multiplying their victims," he said.

Janet Radcliffe Richards, professor of practical philosophy at Oxford, said there are serious problems about who makes the decision to sterilise, and the abuses. She said: “I would dispute the argument that this is for the sake of the children. It’s a curious case that if the child doesn’t exist, it can’t be harmed. And to say that it would be better for the child not to exist, you need to be able to say that its life is worse than nothing. Now I think that’s a difficult thing to do because most people are glad they exist.”

However, Radcliffe Richards refused to categorically reject the concept of forced sterilization as a solution to social problems, saying that there “is a really serious argument” about the “cost to the rest of society of allowing people to have children when you can pretty strongly predict that those children are going to be a nuisance.”

Marsland concluded that “we’re not short of people, so we don’t need to use this right [and] even if it is a right, we’ve got rather too many people.” ~ BBC Radio 4, Aug 28

This article is published by Jared Yee and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

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