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In 1997, following the publication of articles by Maciej Zaremba in the Dagens Nyheter daily, widespread attention was given to the fact that Sweden once operated a strong sterilization program, which was active primarily from the late 1930s until the mid 1950s. A governmental commission was set up, and finished its inquiry in 2000.
The eugenistic legislation was enacted in 1934 and was formally abolished in 1976. According to the 2000 governmental report, 21,000 were estimated to have been forcibly sterilized, 6,000 were coerced into a 'voluntary' sterilization while the nature of a further 4,000 cases could not be determined. The Swedish state subsequently paid out damages to many of the victims.
The program was meant primarily to prevent mental illness and disease. In 1922 the State Institute of Racial Biology was founded in Uppsala and in 1927 Parliament began to deal with the first legal provisions on sterilisation. A new draft was produced in 1932, already taking into account sterilisation for general socio-prophylactic reasons, and even without the consent of the person concerned. The draft was adopted in 1934. Another law, passed in 1941, did not include any age of consent limit.
From 1950, the number of eugenic sterilisations under the 1935 legal provisions gradually decreased and between 1960 and 1970 voluntary sterilisations based on the wishes and in the interest of the persons concerned prevailed. As in Canada and the US, racial politics also became involved, as there was a strong belief in the connection between race and genetic integrity among leading scientists and those carrying out the sterilizations. The Swedish Racial Hygiene Society had been founded in Stockholm in 1909, and the 1934 works by Alva and Gunnar Myrdal was very significant in promoting the eugenic tendencies in practical politics. The authors theorized that the best solution for the Swedish welfare state ("folkhem") was to prevent at the outset the hereditary transfer of undesirable characteristics that caused the individual affected to become sooner or later a burden on society. The authors therefore proposed a "corrective social reform” under which sterilisation was to prevent "unviable individuals” from spreading their undesirable traits. In the later decades it was primarily the mentally ill who were forcibly sterilized.
...we have, in truth, learned nothing from the [human] genome other than probabilities. How does a 1 or 3 percent increased risk for something translate into the clinic? It is useless information.
—Genomicist J. Craig Venter, explaining in a Der Spiegel interview (July 29, 2010) why the results of genome research have not yielded more medical applications