Friday, February 5, 2010

J. Marion Sims

so this is the second post for 'Black History Month' post.
this one is somewhat about a post i did earlier. its about J. Marion Sims.
i'm getting more into this book-Mecical Apartheid that i've spoken of in some earlier posts, but this chapter i just finished is dying to be heard. it mainly goes into Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey-3 of Sims' most tortures human experiments, but it also goes into detail about just how things like this were justified as well as the blatant contradictions of some of the most distinguished ethnologists and scientists of the time. this excerpt is more about the latter.
...physicians believed that blacks naturally harbored diseases, notably syphilis, that threatened the health of whites. each of these common beliefs served as rationales for abusive medical experimentation. one of the most tenacious beliefs was that blacks did not feel pain or anxiety, which excused painful surgical explorations without anesthesia on blacks. Dr. Charles White declared that "[blacks] bear surgical operations much better than white people and what would be the cause of insupportable pain for white men, a Negro would almost disregard...[i have] amputated the legs of many Negroes, who have held the upper part of the limb themselves." and when Kentucky surgeon Efraim McDowell wrote of gynecologic advances that were achieved by exquisitely painful surgeries, Dr. James Johnson, editor of the London Medical and Chirurgical Review, sneered, "When we come to reflect that all women operated upon in Kentucky, except one, were Negresses and that these people will bear anything with nearly if not quite as much impunity as dogs and rabbits, our wonder is lessened."

this excerpt is about J. Marion Sims and his "test subjects/victims":
As a plantation doctor, Sims attended many children, but he used only the black infants as subjects for dangerous experiments in tetany, a long-misunderstood children's neuromuscular disease characterized by cunvulsions and muscle spasms. the tetany that was epidemic among enslaved children was actually the result of severe calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D deficiency caused by the displacement of skull bones during birth.
he took a sick black baby from its mother, made incisions in its scalp, then weilded a cobbler's tool to pry the skull bones into new positions:... Sim's attempt to "open" the skull was based upon a scientific myth that the bones of black infants' skulls, unlike white infants', grew together quickly, leaving the brain no space to grow and develop. this premature closing of the black skull was held to cause low intelligence and perpetual childishness in adult blacks. when the infants died, Sims castigated the sloth and ignorance of their mothers and the black midwives who attended them.
... [Anarcha's] condition, vesicovaginal fistula, afflcited many women, blacks and white, who survived difficult childbirth. however, enslaved women had an especially high rate of this complication. despite physicians' tendency to blame "the ingnorance and obtrusive interference of our plantation accoucheurs and nigger midwives," Sims himself conceded that the rates of vesicovaginal fistual had risen when obstetricians began using forceps.
the condition may well have been due to a confluence of malnutrition, forceps use, and Anarcha's youth. the vitamin D deficiency that was very common among malnourished slave women caused bone defects, including a small pelvis. this made birth difficult, especially in underdeveloped pelvises of very young women, and slave women became mothers approximately three years earlier than did white women.
...He made [enslaved] women undress completely, then kneel on hands and knees while he and several physicians took turns inserting a special speculum he had devised to open the women's vaginas fully to view.
the surgeries themselves were terribly painful. not only had sims to close the unnatural openings in the ravaged vaginal tissues; he had to make the edges of these openings knit together. he opted to abrade, or "scarify" the edges of the vaginal tears every time he attempted to repair an opening. he then closed them with sutures and saw them become infected and reopen, painfully, every time

this entire chapter details very relevant facts about what happened to his test subjects as well as test subjects of many medical "professionals" of the time.

i found a website that goes into detail about vasicovaginal fistulas. it has a video of the repair, definitely DID NOT watch (reading about it is bad enough, why would i want to watch a video...??) nor am i encouraging you to watch it. i thought that the drawings at the bottom were very informative.

i found it even more interesting that with all the torture he inflicted upon HUMAN BEINGS (whether he agreed with that or not), he is still celebrated as one of the fathers of gynecology. i googled him, and i found a foundation that was founded in his honor. it gives scholarships to gynecology students and the like, and their recollections of him as a doctor are quite porous. you can see here that his foundation make no mention of his early test subjects-the ones that he experimented on dozens of times, ones that made him famous, ones that brought him from a less than mediocre novice at medicine to a prominent "woman doctor" ("gynecology" wasn't used until later). and why?
well, its possible that the individuals that erected this foundation have no knowledge of his early "practices", or its possible that they know, yet would find it a bit immoral to have a foundation in the name of the vile, racist sadist that he was. theres actually a statue that stands in honor of him in NYC.

i may start a petition to have it taken down, burned, and then shat on. we'll see...
i found the following photo on a google search. found it fitting of my sentiments.

comment. converse. read the book. be thankful of your current situation whatever it may be. how is it that descendants of enslaved people still exist? mind boggling...
also, i found these website that give due respect to Sims' victims:
Anarcha 1, Anarcha 2, AND!!! i found this website that uses theater in respect to Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey.

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