As a Deaf person and an activist for the rights of the disabled in education and medical care, I was appalled to find out that the disabled were singled out for sterilization and euthanasia long before the Jews had been. I was even more upset that prior to medical school, I had never even heard of the willing collaboration of doctors and scientists in Germany with the Nazi political machine to rid their race of defective people (it didn't seem to matter when impairment began or how, or these people were educable and able to work). Not to ever dismiss the horror of the Jewish Holocaust and the amount of lives taken, but it is imperative that we remember and we teach that the slope leading to extermination of races began with the ideas of Social Darwinism, natural selection, and survival of the fittest, which were the scientific theories/beliefs used to justify the removal of anyone with a difference. This belief system still pervades society today, when someone like Kervorkian (who only worked with dead bodies) could take it upon himself to decide whether someone's life was of any worth, on the basis of 'normalcy'.
Henry Friedlander does an excellent job of writing and researching into the lives and minds of the doctors and administrators who ran the secret programs that killed first, German children who were born with disabilities, then led to the removal from schools and homes of older children with disabilities to meet their deaths through starvation and drugs, and finally to include adults with disabilities in mass murders. It was on these people that the Nazis perfected their instruments of genocide, and yet, even at Nurenburg their suffering was dismissed as "lives unworthy of life" just because of their disabilities.
This can happen again, especially with the completion of the human genome. NO laws have been suggested to curtail the use of information gleaned from the genome to prevent discrimination of any kind against the disabled. It is of great concern that the disabled community watch opponents of the Americans with Disabilities Act try to get this civil rights act revoked as being expensive, especially since it serves those who many (including Clint Eastwood apparently) feel are not productive members of society. The slippery slope begins at this point, and with these mindsets.
It is imperative that students of medicine and students of science be made to read this book. It is only through education and remembering the children and families whose lives were destroyed that we can avoid allowing this Medical Holocaust from ever happening again. Karen Sadler, Science Education, University of Pittsburgh