Segregation and or quarantine of undesirable reviled and feared individuals and even peoples whom the dominant society viewed carried societal or biological disease evolved in the Middle Ages in Europe and the Muslim world. Jews, who had lived openly amongst non-Jews in the Diaspora for almost 1,000 years, were gradually and almost totally forced into Ghettos. Segregation by the mid 16th century was a reality codified by a Papal Bull - Cum nimis absurdum issued by Pope Paul IV, July 14, 1555. 7
Europe about the period of the Crusades had Leprosy reintroduced by returning Crusaders. It had spontaneously disappeared after the fall of Rome for unknown reasons. Knowledge of disease transmission was unknown at the time. As in a later period of the Bubonic Plague, the Jew was viewed as a factor in transmission. The Jews were not contributory in the reintroduction of Leprosy in Europe. The accusation was an anti-Semitic conspiratorial assumption.
Leprosy in England was particularly virulent by the 13th Century. There were over an estimated 200 leprosariums in England.8 Henry II of England and Philip the V of France tried to solve their leprosy and leper issues more simply. They had them exterminated.9 Death as the final solution for leprosy was always a practiced solution in various cultures and to varying degrees. Generally, the church mitigated the worst of the final solution type decrees. The Catholic Church viewed all life as sacred, as having a soul. Lepers were seen as curst by God, moral degenerates, heretics, whose disease was a reflection of sexual transgressions and sin in the corporeal world. Medieval Church religious rituals accompanied the newly diagnosed leper with the final rights of death. The sufferer was consoled with an obviation of Purgatory in the world to come. Only the sufferer was not dead. They were banished to a non- societal living and a painful death.10
Leprosy is a not a totally opportunistic disease. Segregation and quarantine may have an ameliorative effect on the spread of the disease. In the 20th century it was finally understood that a form of natural selection was involved with Leprosy. Approximately 5 to 10 % of European population has a genetic factor in who can and cannot become infected by the bacterium when they encounter infectious people. Two genes must be present for the disease to take effect. Isolation and eventual death of the infected individuals may have had a contributory effect in the disease virtually dieing out in Europe by the 19th century.
A curious aspect of the disease is also spontaneous, independent recuperation from infection. It cannot be accurately stated that the centuries old practices of isolation, sterilization and euthanization, by direct or benign neglect, actually resulted in a significant reduction in the number of people infected.
The 19th century saw a fundamentalist Christian religious rewakening. European and American missions to the Leper, emulating their understanding of Christian doctrine, flourished. The missionary's purpose was to heal and comfort the Leper while saving their souls from evident sin.
About the same time the rudiments of the modern scientific revolution burst unto Western thought trying to understand the physical world. Charles Darwin's 1859 seminal work, The Origin of the Species, on evolution advanced his earlier theory of transmutation of the species (1838). It led to the emergence of a new theory of human engineering.
"Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention. The goals of various groups advocating eugenics have included the creation of healthier, more intelligent people, to save society's resources, and lessen human suffering, as well as racially based goals or desires to breed for other specific qualities, such as fighting abilities.
Earlier proposed means of achieving these goals focused on selective breeding, while modern ones focus on prenatal testing and screening, genetic counseling, birth control, in vitro fertilization and genetic engineering. Opponents argue that eugenics is immoral and is based on, or is itself, pseudoscience. Historically, eugenics has been used as a justification for coercive state-sponsored discrimination and human rights violations, such as forced sterilization of persons who appear to have - or are claimed to have - genetic defects, the killing of the institutionalized and, in some cases, outright genocide of races perceived as inferior or undesireable.
Breeding of human beings was suggested at least as far back as Plato, but the modern field and term was first formulated by Sir Francis Galton in 1865, drawing on the recent work of his cousin Charles Darwin. From its inception eugenics was supported by prominent people, including Alexander Graham Bell, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler. Eugenics was an academic discipline at many colleges and universities. Funding was provided by prestigious sources such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Institute of Washington and the Harriman Family."11
The logical extension of eugenic moral and legal theory was advanced in the 20th century by two German intellectuals, Karl Binding, a respected jurist and Alfred Hoche an honored psychiatrist. Collaboratively they wrote the highly influential book, Die Freigabe der Vernichtung Lebensunwertem Lebens (Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living) 1920.
Concerns for the betterment of humanity, concern for the meaning of and the value of a dignified life, led to three central stuggles in their book. The questions revolved around who should live and who could be mercifully put to death.
- A person who has been mortally wounded or is terminally ill and has somehow communicated their wish to die.
- A person that is incurably mentally ill.
- The people belonging to the middle group, were "mentally healthy" people, which having suffered a serious injury are now unconscious. If they ever awake, they "will awake to a nameless suffering".