Last updated on: 7/23/2013 | Author:

1915 – Dr. Haiselden Allows Deformed Baby Boy to Die Rather Than Give Him Possibly Lifesaving Surgery

“In the early hours of 12 November 1915, at Chicago’s German-American Hospital, Anna Bollinger gave birth to her fourth child, a seven-pound baby boy…the baby was blue and badly deformed. After conferring with the father, the doctor awakened Harry J. Haiselden, the hospital’s forty-five-year-old chief of staff. Haiselden diagnosed a litany of physical defects… He predicted that, without surgery…the child would die shortly…

In a decision whose shockwaves would ripple from coast to coast, and mark a milestone in the history of euthanasia in America, Haiselden advised against surgery. The Bollingers tearfully agreed and, on 16 November, Haiselden called a news conference to announce that, rather than operate, he would ‘merely stand by passively’ and ‘let nature complete its bungled job.’ The child died on 17 November, amid growing controversy.

By declining to operate, Haiselden…almost singlehandedly managed to accomplish what other defenders of euthanasia before him had not. He not only got more Americans than ever before talking about euthanasia, but also won endorsements from numerous prominent figures. The publicity surrounding his professional conduct, briefly eclipsing news from World War I, inspired other Americans to speak out in favor of letting deformed infants die for the good of society… Haiselden demonstrated how support for euthanasia was nurtured by a cultural climate punctuated by science, naturalism, and humanitarian reform.”