Between social hypocrisy and social responsibility: Professional views of eugenics, disability and repro-genetics in Germany and Israel

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21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Nazi eugenics is one of the main historical events influencing current popular as well as scholarly discussions of reproductive genetics. This influence, however, is open to different interpretations and social constructions. Based on 44 open interviews with Israeli and German genetic counselors, conducted in 2000-2003, our findings suggest that while the majority of German counselors reflected on Nazi eugenics as setting moral limits for contemporary repro-genetics, many Israeli counselors detached their contemporary practice from the wrongdoings of the past. Correspondingly, German counselors were far more sensitive towards the disability critique of repro-genetics than their Israeli counterparts. We conclude with a discussion of these two opposite positions, suggesting that the comparison of German and Israeli professionals reveals a profound complexity and involvedness in coming to terms with the eugenic lessons of the Holocaust, on both sides. In Germany, potential benefits of repro-genetics might be rejected due to an emphasis on a more universalistic lesson of the Holocaust regarding the value of human life and dignity. In Israel, a more particularistic lesson of the Holocaust regarding national Jewish survival, combined with a lack of public debate regarding medicalization and geneticization, might have promoted the advent of unregulated commercially and consumer-driven repro-genetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-102
Number of pages16
JournalNew Genetics and Society
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2010

Keywords

  • Bioethics
  • Disability
  • Eugenics
  • Genetic counselors
  • Germany
  • Holocaust
  • Israel
  • Repro-genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Genetics
  • Health Policy

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