Despite pronounced changes in genetic knowledge and technology, the post–World War II philosophical stance on “eugenics” has not changed substantially. By the mid-1900s, as classical eugenics became less genetically naive and the medical profession became increasingly oriented toward disease prevention, a reformed eugenics had greater appeal. Eugenics’ surviving influence on medical genetics is best seen in the field of genetic counseling, a discipline that serves prospective parents and families at risk of genetic abnormalities, and whose origins reveal close ties to population genetics. This article examines the ideal of nondirective counseling, genetic screening for disease, concerns regarding the quality of children, and the potential to select the sex and other characteristics of future offspring in order to indicate the complexity of ethical issues in modern genetic counseling. Modern “eugenics” is prevention-focused and has, importantly, eschewed outmoded and invidious “racial” distinctions, but these seminal tendencies are evident by the mid-20th century.


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pp. 156-171
Launched on MUSE
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