Enslaved Women, Gynecology and the Medical Industrial Complex

I am trying to finish up studying for Step 3 on Tuesday so I do not have all that much time to dedicate to this post. However what I do want to say is that I welcome more and more publicity around this issue that is very painful and difficult to talk about.

J. Marion Sims with Anarcha, Betsey, Lucy and two physicians. ( Artist rendering by Robert Thom, historical illustrator.)

“THE PRICE SLAVE WOMEN PAID FOR THE “BIRTH” OF MODERN GYNECOLOGY” by BlackThen has brought this topic up again:

“If taking a stroll through New York’s Central Park, one might see the statue of Dr. James Marion Sims. Known as the “father of gynecology,” His greatest achievement and claim to fame was curing the problem of the vesico-vaginal fistula. However, controversy exists because he found his surgical cure, use of silver sutures and speculum from performing a number of trial and error procedures on slave women from 1845 to 1849.”

And we know that Marion Sims is not the only one involved and there were many experiments that took advantage of Black Slave Women. This continues unfortunately through history, one notable and well-publicized example is the book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”. One of my favorite books is “Birthing a Slave” by Marie Jenkins Schwartz  and you can find much more information about this topic there as well as here the original source, “Slave Women and the Birth of Gynecology” by Nicole Paschal for the Black Then article.

I just hope that we can learn from our mistakes.

This brings me back when I was completely “caught off guard” by Mia Mingus and the “Medical Industrial Complex”.  It is not that I did not know what she was talking about, as a medical student I often felt “weird” about things that went on at the hospital I trained at, from the stories about the Reconstruction era Black gravedigger that dug up bones for white medical students to use for their training without consent or to the daily macro and microagressions and stereotyping that occurs in modern medicine. I felt weird but did not have a word for it. This when in actuality I knew exactly what she was talking about but just did not have a word for it or knew that it had been named.

Naming is powerful yall. That is why we need to keep sharing our stories.

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