Racial Injustice: Honor African American Victims of Surgical Experimentation
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J. Marion Sims was a physician that lived in the 1800's. Many medical scientists and doctors in healthcare today hail him as a modern hero, earning him the title, "Father of Modern Gynecology." He is credited with the creation of a groundbreaking surgery to fix vesicovaginal fistulas in women.
What is not being talked about however, is the unethical and inhumane experimental surgeries he performed on African-American enslaved women and babies.
Central Park is honoring a man for treating black slaves like animals.
Sims first began studying what he called "trismus nascentium," which is now known as tetanus bacteria. A tetanus bacterium develops from horse manure, and enslaved infants had a higher rate of the disease, most likely from being in close contact with horses and horse barns. His comments in the article are very clear about the way he viewed African Americans. He says, "Wherever there are poverty, and filth, and laziness, or where intellectual capacity is cramped, the moral and social feelings blunted, there it [tetanus] will be found oftener...."
Sims bought black slave babies, and using a shoemaker’s awl, pried into the infant's skulls to fix what he called a "misalignment" of the head.
He bought these child slaves for the sole purpose of performing these surgeries. After their death he would autopsy their bodies.
He then began trying to develop a new surgical technique for vesicovaginal fistulas. Once again, he purchased several black slaves. His method was to perfect his technique on the slaves, and once he mastered it, treat the upper-class white women. He set up a hospital in his backyard where he performed painful, dehumanizing, and inhumane surgeries on these women, none of whom were given anesthesia. The youngest slave was only 17 years of age. He would often round up other surgeons to watch this horrific procedure being performed, and after surgery he gave them very little food or water for several weeks. One woman alone, named Anarcha, had as many as 30 operations.
After he had perfected his surgery, he began traveling extensively and treating elite class white women. They were all given anesthesia, and all of them had a choice about whether or not they wanted the surgery. He became a world famous doctor. The statue of him stands tall in the New York City Central Park.
The true heroes of this story are the slaves, and they are the ones that deserve a statue placed in the park in their honor. We need to make sure that these brave and courageous women and precious infants are not forgotten. Slavery is now a thing of the past, and we as a nation have come a long way. We want Central Park to tell the entire story, and give credit where credit is due.
To honor a man like this is and ignore the true heroes is to disrespect an entire nation of people whose ancestors have suffered at his hands.
Please join me in petitioning the Governor and mayor of New York, Central park, and speaker of the New York City council Melissa Mark-Viverito in asking that a similar statue be erected in honor of the slaves.
I am a student that is passionate about social equality and justice for a people nationwide. Placing this statue is the first step in paying respect to all of those slaves who had no voice. We are always appreciative to all the pioneers who developed modern medicine, but never at the expense of human test subjects.
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