At 4am on November 12 1915, a woman named Anna Bollinger gave birth at the German-American Hospital in Chicago. The baby was somewhat deformed and suffered from extreme intestinal and rectal abnormalities, as well as other complications. The delivering physicians awakened Dr Harry Haiselden, the hospital's chief of staff. Haiselden came in at once. He consulted with colleagues. There was great disagreement over whether the child could be saved. But Haiselden decided the baby was too afflicted and fundamentally not worth saving. It would be killed. The method: denial of treatment. Catherine Walsh, probably a friend of Bollinger's, heard the news and sped to the hospital to help. She found the baby, who had been named Allan, alone in a bare room. Walsh pleaded with Haiselden not to kill the baby by withholding treatment. "It was not a monster - that child," Walsh later told an inquest. "It was a beautiful baby. I saw no deformities." Walsh had patted the infant lightly. Allan's eyes were open, and he waved his tiny fists at her. Begging the doctor once more, Walsh tried an appeal to his humanity. "If the poor little darling has one chance in a thousand," she pleaded, "won't you operate to save it?"
Haiselden laughed at Walsh, retorting, "I'm afraid it might get well." He was a skilled and experienced surgeon, trained by the best doctors in Chicago. He was also an ardent eugenicist. Allan Bollinger duly died. An inquest was convened a few days later. Haiselden defiantly declared, "I should have been guilty of a graver crime if I had saved this child's life. My crime would have been keeping in existence one of nature's cruellest blunders." A juror shot back, "What do you mean by that?" Haiselden responded, "Exactly that. I do not think this child would have grown up to be a mental defective. I know it."
After tempestuous proceedings, the inquest ruled: "We believe that a prompt operation would have prolonged and perhaps saved the life of the child. We find no evidence from the physical defects that the child would have become mentally or morally defective." But they also decided that Haiselden was within his professional rights to decline treatment. No law compelled him to operate on the child. He was released unpunished, and efforts by the Illinois attorney general to indict him for murder were blocked by the local prosecutor. The doctor considered his legal vindication a powerful victory for eugenics. "Eugenics? Of course it's eugenics," he told one reporter.
Haiselden became an overnight celebrity, known for his many newspaper articles, his speaking tours and outrageous diatribes. In 1917, Hollywood came calling. The film was called The Black Stork. Written by Jack Lait, a reporter on the Chicago American, it was produced in Hollywood and given a massive national distribution and promotion campaign. Haiselden played himself in a fictionalised account of a eugenically mismatched couple whom he advises not to have children because they are likely to be defective. Eventually, the woman does give birth to a defective child, whom she then allows to die. The dead child levitates into the waiting arms of Jesus Christ. It was unbridled cinematic propaganda for the eugenics movement; the film played at movie theatres around the country for more than a decade.
Hitler's Debt to America
That's an utterly surreal line about the film's victim levitating into the arms of Christ. Either a terribly confused Christian wrote that scene, or it was a deliberate ploy to sway Christians into the eugenics fold. Probably both.