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Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Oliver Wendell Holmes was also known for facing some darker moments. One of his worst decisions was Buck v. Bell in 1927. This case involved the right of the state of Virginia to sterilize a “feeble-minded white woman“ against her will. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing the sterilization. Holmes wrote the Court's opinion and said: “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped by incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for a crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

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