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Past John & Marsha Ryan Bioethicist- in- Residence 

2011 Ryan Bioethicist

Paul A. Lombardo, PHD, JD

"Blood Libel and Generational Curses:
the Legacy of American Eugenics"

April 6, 2011

This lecture will explore how the ancient idea of guilt passed down through families
took root in 19th Century degeneracy theory and eventually found expression in the
propaganda of the 20th Century eugenics movement. The case of Carrie Buck, which gave
voice to the most infamous legal condemnation in Supreme Court history: "Three
generations of imbeciles are enough," will be explored as the foremost legal analog of this idea.



USA Today article featuring Lombardo's Journal of Legal Medicine article on this topic


Paul A. Lombardo is a Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta. He was trained as both an historian and as a lawyer, and he holds a B.A. from Rockhurst College (Kansas City, Mo.), an M.A. from Loyola University of Chicago, and both the Ph.D. and J.D. degrees from the University of Virginia. From 1985-1990 he practiced law in California. From 1990 until 2006 he served on the faculty of the Schools of Law and Medicine at the University of Virginia, where he was the Director of the Center for Mental Health Law at the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, then the Director of the Program in Law and Medicine in the Center for Biomedical Ethics.

Professor Lombardo’s more than 250 publications contain book chapters, encyclopedia entries, case reports, reviews and scholarly articles. His books include the award-winning Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court and Buck v. Bell (2008) and A Century of Eugenics in America: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Era (2011), as well as a bioethics text: Fletcher’s Clinical Ethics, (3rd edition, 2005). He has spoken at more than 100 colleges, universities and medical centers in the U.S. and recently also lectured in Canada, Italy, Russia and Pakistan.

Professor Lombardo was recently appointed as a Senior Advisor to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in DC.