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A medical procedure where the reproductive organs are removed or rendered ineffective.

Legally mandated sterilization of criminals, or other members of society deemed "socially undesirable," has for some time been considered a stain on the history of U.S. law. The practice, also known as eugenics, originated early in the twentieth century. In 1914, a Model Eugenical Sterilization Law was published by Harry Laughlin at the Eugenics Records Office. Laughlin proposed the sterilization of "socially inadequate" persons, which translated as anyone "maintained wholly or in part by public expense." This would include the "feebleminded, insane, blind, deaf, orphans, and the homeless." At the time the model law was published, 12 states had enacted sterilization laws. Such laws were seen to benefit society since they presumably reduced the burden on taxpayers of maintaining state-run facilities. Eventually, these laws were challenged in court.

In Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927), oliver wendell holmes jr. wrote the infamous opinion that upheld the constitutionality of a Virginia sterilization law, fueling subsequent legislative efforts to enact additional sterilization laws. By 1930, 30 states and Puerto Rico had passed laws mandating sterilization for many criminal or moral offenses. Nearly all of the states with such laws imposed mandatory sterilization of mentally defective citizens. Nineteen states required sterilization for parents of children likely to experience various disorders. Six states encouraged sterilization for individuals whose children might be "socially inadequate."

Finally, the Supreme Court struck down an Oklahoma law mandating involuntary sterilization for repeat criminals in Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 62 S. Ct. 1110, 86 L. Ed. 1655 (1942). Justice william o. douglas's opinion broadly defined the right to privacy to include the right to procreate, and concluded that the government's power to sterilize interfered with an individual's basic liberties.

By mid-century, legal attitudes had changed, and many state sterilization laws were held to be unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment prohibiting Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Further readings

Carlson, Elof Axel. 2001. The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea. Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Kevles, Daniel J. 1985. In the Name of Eugenics. New York: Knopf.

Smith, J. David, and K. Ray Nelson. 1999. The Sterilization of Carrie Buck. Far Hills, N.J.: New Horizon Press.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
*Physical properties are not impacted by steam sterilization
Decontamination of laboratory microbiological waste by steam sterilization. App.
The tensile forces during the superheated steam sterilization of PC increased by F = 20 N in the 1BA test specimens.
First, by recognizing that not all devices can be processed in gravity displacement and therefore, the word flash should be changed to immediate-use steam sterilization. Many OR sterilizers have cycles that are still labeled flash which usually refers to gravity displacement.
Figure 16: Global Steam Sterilization Equipment Market Size Forecast, 2012E-17E (US$ Million)
Switching to the other end of the temperature spectrum, many surgical instrument manufacturers wish to sterilize their tools and battery packs using steam sterilization. Using an autoclave, the sterilization process uses pressurized steam heated to 137[degrees]C.
regulations and to familiarize them with legal alternatives, including steam sterilization. For further information:
Effects of irradiation were compared with effects of a steam sterilization method.
ProTest Steam is a self-contained biological indicator inoculated with viable Geobacillus stearothermophilus bacterial spore, and is intended for monitoring the efficacy of steam sterilization cycles (121[degrees]C gravity displacement and 121[degrees]C to 135[degrees]C pre-vacuum cycles).
This is the first time that steam sterilization will be used in Jordan as alternative to the incineration of HCW.
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