Presentation educates the community on eugenics and the Holocaust

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Dr. Sheldon Rubenfeld, professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and executive director for the Center for Medicine after the Holocaust.
Dr. Sheldon Rubenfeld, professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and executive director of the Center for Medicine after the Holocaust.

A presentation on eugenics was held Tuesday, Nov. 1, by Dr. Sheldon Rubenfeld, professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and executive director of the Center for Medicine after the Holocaust.

Eugenics is a science that studies the control of human breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heretic characteristics. Abortion, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide and euthanasia are forms of Eugenics.

Dr. Rubenfeld’s discussion educated attendees on the history of eugenics in relation to the Holocaust. He discussed German and American documentation of eugenics practices. He also argued that American eugenicists played a critical role in the development of German “racial hygiene” policies. For example, Rubenfeld said that Germany’s political philosophy of applied biology was shaped by American leaders who provided legislative models, financial aid and moral support.

Rubenfeld said that the Center for Medicine after the Holocaust’s mission – to challenge doctors, nurses and bioscientists to personally confront the medical ethics of the Holocaust and apply that knowledge to contemporary practice and research – is his hope for the future of understanding eugenics.

“My current goal is to get an academic chair at Baylor College of Medicine,” Rubenfeld said.

Barbara Hales, associate professor of history and humanities, coordinated the presentation.

“We are learning about the Holocaust in our Holocaust class and thought it would be nice to share a study in an open forum with other members of the university and public,” Hales said. “We ended up having more people than we had seats for.”

Hales said she felt Rubenfeld would be a good person to speak because he is both a medical doctor and Holocaust scholar.

Approximately 200 people attended the presentation.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be this sad,” said Yaritza Sifuentes, mathematical science major. “It kind of challenged my beliefs with medical treatment for the elderly with the idea of death with dignity.”

The History Club helped sponsor the presentation with light refreshments. Members encouraged attendance by advertising to the public and local businesses.

People attended from UTMB, Santa Fe High School, continuing education facilities, local synagogues and the UHCL community.

“I encouraged my classes to attend and really hope the students learned about a new perspective of history with this information,” said Kenneth Harms, AP U.S History teacher, Santa Fe High School.

 

CORRECTION 11/14/2016: This article has been corrected to read that 200 people attended the presentation instead of 100 people. 

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