Intended for healthcare professionals

Fillers One hundred years ago

Medicine and matrimony

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 18 January 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:134

It has been said that marriages would be at least as happy were they made by the Lord Chancellor as they generally prove to be under our present system of sexual selection. Certainly those who know the average French ménage, not as it is pourtrayed by novelists whose sole idea of love is adultery, but as it is seen in quiet provincial towns and in the country, can testify to the happiness of marriages which have been arranged for the contracting parties by their parents or guardians.

There is not, we think, much chance of the Lord Chancellor taking the place of Cupid as a match-maker in this country. It would be well, however, if in negotiations with a view to matrimony the doctor were to be called in as an assessor to the God of Love, who is proverbially blind, and therefore regardless of consequences. It need not be explained in a medical journal how serious the consequences of the marriage of the unfit are likely to be for their offspring, and ultimately for the race. The matter is one of the most far-reaching importance not only to particular nations, but to human society. So strongly has the conviction of this truth impressed itself on social reformers in some foreign countries that, as was stated in a previous article, Bills for the State regulation of marriage have been introduced into the Legislature of several States of the American Union. In North Dakota, the Creed Bill, which became law in 1899, provides that, before a couple can marry, they must obtain a licence which is granted only to such as are able to produce a certificate from a Medical Board stating that they are free from infectious venereal disease, tuberculosis, epilepsy, hereditary insanity, and confirmed inebriety. … Now, however, for the first time, as far as we are aware, a European Government has undertaken to deal with the question. At the reopening of the Spanish law courts in Madrid not long ago the Minister of Justice, in speaking of certain reforms which he proposed to introduce, mentioned among these the need for medical sanction of marriage contracts. (BMJ 1903;i:383)

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