Description: It is often hard to see local examples of some of the historical issues that come up in relation to the earlier days of psychology or the application of concepts related to psychology to the general population. The idea that it made sense from a social policy perspective to create a mechanism whereby “mentally defective” could be sterilized in order to keep them from having children may be rather hard to get one’s head around. Have a look at this article and contemplate the relationship between psychological research and social policy.
Source: Woman who made history was lawsuit against Alberta Government dies, Gwen Danbrofsky, the Canadian press, Calgary Herald
Date: March 14, 2016
Photo Credit: Edmonton Journal
What do you think of the idea of a committee being struck whose mandate is to decide whether individuals whose circumstances were brought before them should or should not be submitted to non-voluntary sterilization in order to keep them from having children. Are there any criteria or circumstances under which you might consider this to be a reasonable course of social action? Consider the situation of Leilani Muir–O’Malley, an Alberta woman who recently passed away, into and are teenagers without your knowledge or consent sterilized after a committee legally formed by the province of Alberta deemed her to be mentally defective, a decision that turned out to be erroneous. Ms. Muir–O’Malley successfully sued the province of Alberta for over three quarters of million dollars wrote a book about her experiences. The legislation that created the committee that authorized her sterilization was enacted in 1928 struck down in 1992. Following Ms. Muir–O’Malley’s legal settlement group of 600 “dependent adult” claimants were provided with settlements and ultimately an additional 200 individuals who were not “dependent adults” reached a joint $80 million settlement. After you’ve read through the brief description provided in the above linked article have a look at one or two of the other links I think a little bit about the use of psychological tests and theories in the formation or the application of social policy. Think particularly about the sorts of issues that can impact the reliability and validity of tests in relation to these questions.
Questions for Discussion:
- What was the intended purpose of legally formed committees such as the Alberta Eugenics Board?
- What sort of ethical standards or guidelines might we hope or wish any such committees would be held to particularly in relation to any psychological tests or other data?
- Can you think of any other areas where we perhaps ought to be vigilant with regards to the application of psychological tools or theory areas of social policy or social action?
References (Read Further):
Muir, Leilani (2014) A Whisper Past: Childless after Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta, Friesen Press, Victoria, BC.