Searchlights on Health/Health and Disease

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Heredity and the Transmission of Diseases.

1. BAD HABITS.—It is known that the girl who marries the man with bad habits, is, in a measure, responsible for the evil tendencies which these habits have created in the children; and young people are constantly warned of the danger in marrying when they know they come from families troubled with chronic diseases or insanity. To be sure the warnings have had little effect thus far in preventing such marriages, and it is doubtful whether they will, unless the prophecy of an extremist writing for one of our periodicals comes to pass—that the time is not far distant when such marriages will be a crime punishable by law.

2. TENDENCY IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.—That there is a tendency in the right direction must be admitted, and is perhaps most clearly shown in some of the articles on prison reform. Many of them strongly urge the necessity of preventive work as the truest economy, and some go so far as to say that if the present human knowledge of the laws of heredity were acted upon for a generation, reformatory measures would be rendered unnecessary.

3. SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES.—The mother who has ruined her health by late hours, highly-spiced food, and general carelessness in regard to hygienic laws, and the father who is the slave of questionable habits, will be very sure to have children either mentally or morally inferior to what they might otherwise have had a right to expect. But the prenatal influences may be such that evils arising from such may be modified to a great degree.

4. FORMATION OF CHARACTER.—I believe that pre-natal influences may do as much in the formation of character as all the education that can come after, and that the mother may, in a measure, "will" what that influence shall be, and that, as knowledge on the subject increases, it will be more and more under their control. In that, as in everything else, things that would be possible with one mother would not be with another, and measures that would be successful with one would produce opposite results from the other.

5. INHERITING DISEASE. Consumption—that dread foe of modern life—is the most frequently encountered of all affections as the result of inherited predispositions. Indeed, some of the most eminent physicians have believed it is never produced in any other way. Heart disease, disease of the throat, excessive obesity, affections of the skin, asthma, disorders of the brain and nervous system, gout, rheumatism and cancer, are all hereditary. A tendency to bleed frequently, profusely and uncontrollably, from trifling wounds, is often met with as a family affection.

6. MENTAL DERANGEMENTS.—Almost all forms of mental derangements are hereditary—one of the parents or near relation being afflicted. Physical or bodily weakness is often hereditary, such as scrofula, gout, rheumatism, rickets, consumption, apoplexy, hernia, urinary calculi, hemorrhoids or piles, cataract, etc. In fact, all physical weakness, if ingrafted in either parent, is transmitted from parents to offspring, and is often more strongly marked in the latter than in the former.

7. MARKS AND DEFORMITIES.—Marks and deformities are all transmissible from parents to offspring, equally with diseases and peculiar proclivities. Among such blemishes may be mentioned moles, hair-lips, deficient or supernumerary fingers, toes, and other characteristics. It is also asserted that dogs and cats that have accidentally lost their tails, bring forth young similarly deformed. Blumenbach tells of a man who had lost his little finger, having children with the same deformity.

8. CAUTION.—Taking facts like these into consideration, how very important is it for persons, before selecting partners for life, to deliberately weigh every element and circumstances of this nature, if they would insure a felicitous union, and not entail upon their posterity disease, misery and despair. Alas! in too many instances matrimony is made a matter of money, while all earthly joys are sacrificed upon the accursed altars of lust and mammon.