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No money to bury man sterilized by force
California sterilized Charlie Follett by force in 1945. He died last month at age 82, too poor to afford his own funeral.
April 11th, 2012
10:16 AM ET

No money to bury man sterilized by force

Even in death Charlie Follett continues to be marginalized.

In 1945, the state of California forced Follett to have a vasectomy when he was just 15 years old, according to state records. California then refused to compensate him for the atrocious violation. Follett died March 28 at 82, just three weeks after CNN first reported his story.

His body hasn’t been buried because there’s no money to pay for a funeral.

“He didn’t have any burial insurance, or any life insurance, or any kind of insurance for that matter,” Follett’s friend, Rudy Banlasan, told CNN. “The plot alone is $4,000.”

According to Follett’s sister and niece, Follett died of pneumonia, Banlasan said. Before his death, Follett described the brutal details of his sterilization.

"First, they shot me with some kind of medicine. It was supposed to deaden the nerves," he said. "Then the next thing I heard was snip, snip and that was it.”

The sterilization worked exactly as California had intended - Follett died having had no children. He was one of 20,000 Californians sterilized by force in the early and mid-1900s as part of the state’s eugenics program, which was designed to end the bloodlines of the so-called feeble-minded to create a more desirable population. Follett was sterilized because his parents were both alcoholics.

Over the past few years, Banlasan tried to help Follett seek justice, writing letters and e-mails on Follett's behalf to Gov. Edmund "Jerry" Brown and other state politicians and officials. But Banlasan hasn’t told them about Follett’s death or asked the state for help to pay for a proper burial.

“I didn’t even try because to me it’s pointless,” he said. “I didn’t think they were going to do anything now, especially since he’s gone.”

Follett served in the Korean War and as a veteran could be buried in a national cemetery at no cost for the plot, Banlasan said. However, Follett wanted to be buried at a cemetery in Lodi, California, near family members including his grandparents, said Banlasan. A plot, gravestone and memorial service would cost $9,000, he said.

Follett’s family has set up a memorial fund. Donations can be made by contacting Wells Fargo Bank in Lodi, California, or by e-mailing charliememorialfund@gmail.com.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.