Today I had to run an errand for my boss and drop off some materials at the New York Academy of Medicine. After leaving I ran into the statue of J. Marion Sims in Central park. This is a doctor who’s heralded as the pioneer of modern surgery, rising to fame only after discovering a surgical solution to vesicovaginal fistula, an issue plaguing women in the 19th century. Well since he didn’t have a solution for how to close the fistulae at the time, he had to practice, and since white women wouldn’t agree to multiple surgeries, he volunteered (FORCED) enslaved black women. He did multiple surgeries on these 4-5 women, over 40 on one women alone. He gave them no anesthesia, because it was believed that black people didn’t feel pain the way that white people did, and involved many doctors who helped hold these women down as the surgery was performed. A few doctors left the case because they were too horrified at the situation.
After years of surgeries, he discovered that the solution was something like using silver sutures to close the holes (don’t quote me on that, I don’t remember exactly). And BAM, he’s the father of modern surgery. He rode that success to the heights of fame. Now he has statues of him and buildings named after him all over the world.
The one in central park reads:
“Surgeon & philanthropist, founder of the woman’s hospital state of New York his brilliant achievement carried the fame of American surgery throughout the entire world.”
“In recognition of his services in the cause of science & mankind awarded highest honors by his countrymen & decorations from the governments of Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, & Portugal”
Thank god for his humanity, torturing black women to advance his career, establishing a hospital that black women probably couldn’t even use, and perfecting a surgery on black women to then almost exclusively administer it to white women. Ironically, the women who suffer the most from this issue presently are women on the African continent, who, of course, don’t get the treatment that other black bodies had to suffer for to be in existence.
My senior seminar paper about the medical abuses of African Americans began with J. Marion Sims, and continued right up until the 21st century (because, of course, the non-consensual medical experimentation on brown and black bodies has yet to cease)
Consequently, I just wanted to knock the statue over…