The Portrayal of J. Marion Sims' Controversial Surgical Legacy (2022)

ScienceDirect

Corporate sign inSign in / register

ViewPDF

  • Access throughyour institution

The Journal of Urology

Volume 185, Issue 6,

June 2011

, Pages 2424-2427

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.juro.2011.01.077Get rights and content

(Video) The US medical system is still haunted by slavery

Purpose

In the mid 1800s Dr. J. Marion Sims reported the successful repair of vesicovaginal fistulas with a technique he developed by performing multiple operations on female slaves. A venerated physician in his time, the legacy of Dr. Sims is controversial and represents a significant chapter in the mistreatment of African-Americans by the medical establishment. This review compares the modern debate surrounding his legacy with the presentation of his operation in widely consulted urological texts and journals.

Materials and Methods

A literature review was performed of medical, sociological and periodical sources (1851 to the present) regarding J. Marion Sims and vesicovaginal fistula repair.

Results

During the last several decades, while the controversy around Dr. Sims' surgical development has produced a steady stream of articles in the historical and popular literature, relatively little mention is found in standard urology textbooks or journals. With increased public attention, some have debated the removal or modification of public tributes to Dr. Sims. This move has been countered by arguments against the validity of judging a 19th century physician by modern standards.

Conclusions

While historians, ethicists and the popular press have debated Dr. Sims' legacy, medical sources have continued to portray him unquestionably as a great figure in medical history. This division keeps the medical profession uninformed and detached from the public debate on his legacy and, thus, the larger issues of ethical treatment of surgical patients.

Section snippets

Source Material

The current and all prior editions of Campbell-Walsh Urology (previously Campbell's Urology and Urology) were reviewed for mention of Dr. Sims, his original paper and description of vesicovaginal fistula repair. The gynecological textbook Te Linde's was similarly referenced. The databases PubMed®, Ovid®, Google Scholar and Cross Reference were searched for Dr. Sims' original publication, “On the Treatment of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula,” the 1998 reprinted article and keyword Sims. The New York Times

Sims as Champion of Women'S Health

Dr. Sims' obituary in the New York Times in 1883 described “his invaluable services to the science of medicine,” and his numerous honors, including past president of the American Medical Association and decorations by several European nations.1 He was the first medical professional to have a statue in his honor in New York City, a statue which was moved from Bryant Park to Central Park and now stands across from the New York Academy of Medicine on Fifth Avenue. Throughout the early part of the

“It Was Chattel Slavery and Morphine, Not Courage, That Had Bound the Women to His Surgical Table”2

It was not until the 1960s and 70s that the representation of Sims as a respected physician and champion of women's health began to change. Authors questioned his benevolence, the ethics of experimental operations on slaves and how to portray his legacy. As one author concluded, Sims' experiments were “a classic example of the evils of slavery and the misuse of human subjects for medical research.”10

One of the first reexaminations of Sims' legacy was a 1963 doctoral thesis which was expanded

“One of the Great Figures in the History of Operative Gynecology”

In contrast to the changes in popular and historical sources, medical texts and journals are relatively static in the portrayal of Dr. Sims as a surgical innovator. Current and previous editions of Campbell-Walsh Urology, from the first edition Urology by Dr. Campbell in 1954 to the online version of the 9th edition, contain several references to Dr. Sims' contribution to fistula repair but no mention of who his subjects were or of his controversial legacy (see Appendix).

A resident today would

Summary

While historians, ethicists and the popular press have debated Dr. Sims' legacy, medical sources have continued to portray him unquestionably as a great figure in medical history. This division threatens to keep the medical profession uninformed and detached from the public debate on his legacy. Sims made many contributions to the field. However, as opposed to championing women's health, Sims' legacy should be associated with surgical experimentation on vulnerable populations. This question is

References (18)

  • A Famous Surgeon Dead: The important life work of Dr. J. Marion Sims

    (November 14, 1883)

  • H. Washington

    Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present

    (2006)

  • M.S. Nix

    The Historical Marker Database

  • M. Sims

    The Story of My Life

    (1894)

  • S. Harris

    Woman's Surgeon: The Life Story of J. Marion Sims

    (1950)

    (Video) NAPW Webinar: Racism, Reproductive Justice, & the Monument to Dr. J. Marion Sims.

  • S.B. Word

    The father of gynecology (James Marion Sims)

    Ala J Med Sci

    (1972)

  • R.S. Sparkman

    Dr. J. Marion Sims

    J Med Assoc State Ala

    (1976)

  • W.J. Fitzgerald

    J.Marion Sims, M.D.–gynecologic surgeon

    N Y State J Med

    (1963)

  • R.R. Gifford

    J.Marion Sims (1813–1883) and the vesicovaginal fistula

    J S C Med Assoc

    (1971)

There are more references available in the full text version of this article.

Cited by (18)

  • Tubal factor infertility and its impact on reproductive freedom of African American women

    2022, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

    In the past, the reproductive freedom of African American women was hindered by forced reproduction and sterilization campaigns. Unfortunately, these involuntary practices have now mostly been replaced by inequality because of disproportionate tubal factor infertility rates within African American communities. Our work aimed to describe the inequities in increased rates of pelvic inflammatory disease and tubal factor infertility as it relates to African American women. In addition, we highlighted the need for improved access to screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, access to barrier contraception, and health literacy related to the understanding and prevention of tubal factor infertility in African American women.

  • Introduction in thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers

    2019, Materials for Biomedical Engineering: Thermoset and Thermoplastic Polymers

    When it comes to novel biomaterials and biomedical devices, thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers represent a suitable choice, mainly thanks to their intrinsic mechanical behavior, chemical stability, physicochemical versatility, and functional tunability. In addition, plastics possess attractive and indisputable features which recommend them for such particular use, including facile processability, substantial production, financial efficiency, impressive sterilization susceptibility, and the ability to induce or enhance biomaterial-related functionality. As the reader may be familiar with, the main difference between thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers relies on their compositional, structural, and functional modifications once certain temperature values are reached. Whether we are considering research or industry fields, the successful use of plastics was reported in various biomedical applications, including coating current medical devices, designing and fabricating novel biomedical devices, selective and accurate detection and diagnosis, specific drug and gene delivery vehicles, engineering personalized platforms for restorative or regenerative applications. Given the impressive and promising implications of plastics within modern biomedicine, the aim of this chapter it to provide a general overview regarding the current technological progress reported in thermoplastics and thermosets. Furthermore, a particular attention is directed toward plastics-based biomaterials and biomedical devices, as well as on the leading representatives of thermoresponsive biopolymers.

  • Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health and Health Care

    2017, Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America

  • History is a tangled mess: Medical progress, but at what cost?

    2018, American Journal of Critical Care

    (Video) Episode 1 - Did the End Justify the Means | A Closer look into the Life of J Marion Sims
View all citing articles on Scopus

Recommended articles (6)

  • Research article

    Probiotics for every body

    Trends in Biotechnology, Volume 30, Issue 12, 2012, pp. 613-615

  • Research article

    Maximizing profit in green cellular networks through collaborative games

    Computer Networks, Volume 75, Part A, 2014, pp. 260-275

    In this paper, we deal with the problem of maximizing the profit of Network Operators (NOs) of green cellular networks in situations where Quality-of-Service (QoS) guarantees must be ensured to users, and Base Stations (BSs) can be shared among different operators.

    We show that if NOs cooperate among them, by mutually sharing their users and BSs, then each one of them can improve its net profit.

    By using a game-theoretic framework, we study the problem of forming stable coalitions among NOs. Furthermore, we propose a mathematical optimization model to allocate users to a set of BSs, in order to reduce costs and, at the same time, to meet user QoS for NOs inside the same coalition. Based on this, we propose an algorithm, based on cooperative game theory, that enables each operator to decide with whom to cooperate in order to maximize its profit.

    This algorithms adopts a distributed approach in which each NO autonomously makes its own decisions, and where the best solution arises without the need to synchronize them or to resort to a trusted third party.

    (Video) Anarcha's Legacy | End Fistula | Live Art Show

    The effectiveness of the proposed algorithm is demonstrated through a thorough experimental evaluation considering real-world traffic traces, and a set of realistic scenarios. The results we obtain indicate that our algorithm allows a population of NOs to significantly improve their profits thanks to the combination of energy reduction and satisfaction of QoS requirements.

  • Research article

    The General Comments on HIV adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as a tool to advance the sexual and reproductive rights of women in Africa

    International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, Volume 127, Issue 3, 2014, pp. 305-308

    The present article examines the contents and importance of the General Comments adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Article 14 (1) (d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa as a tool for advancing women’s rights in the context of HIV. Given that discriminatory practices in all facets of life have continued to limit African women’s enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive rights and render them susceptible to HIV infection, it becomes vital that African governments adopt appropriate measures to address this challenge. The provisions of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa present great opportunities for this to be realized. The radical and progressive provisions of the Protocol will be of no use to women unless policymakers and other stakeholders have a clear understanding of them and are able to implement them effectively. The adoption of the General Comments is a welcome development, and states and civil society groups must maximize it to advance women’s rights.

  • Research article

    Kawahara solitons in Boussinesq equations using a robust Christov–Galerkin spectral method

    Applied Mathematics and Computation, Volume 243, 2014, pp. 245-257

    We develop a robust Christov–Galerkin spectral technique for computing interacting localized wave solutions of and fourth and sixth-order generalized wave equations. To this end, a special complete orthonormal system of functions in L2(-,) is used whose rate of convergence is shown to be exponential for the cases under consideration. For the time-stepping, an implicit algorithm is chosen which makes use of the banded structure of the matrices representing the different spatial derivatives.

    As featuring examples, the head-on collision of solitary waves is investigated for a sixth-order generalized Boussinesq equation and a fourth-order Boussinesq type equation with a linear term. Its solutions comprise monotone shapes (sech-es) and damped oscillatory shapes (Kawahara solitons). The numerical results are validated against published data in the literature using the method of variational imbedding.

  • Research article

    Expression profiles of peroxiredoxins in liver stage of the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei

    Parasitology International, Volume 62, Issue 3, 2013, pp. 337-340

    mRNA and protein expression profiles for three peroxiredoxins (TPx-1, TPx-2 and 1-Cys Prx) of liver stage Plasmodium berghei were examined through quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) and indirect immunofluorescence microscopy assay (IFA). RT-PCR experiments revealed that mRNA expression for the TPx-1 was detected shortly after the sporozoite infection and kept expressed until the schizont stage. In contrast, the mRNA expression for 1-Cys Prx had begun increasing when the parasite developed into the schizont stage. Using the IFA, TPx-1 and 1-Cys Prx were detected in the cytosol. This finding suggested the developmental stage-specific expression of the cytosolic enzymes in the liver stage parasite. On the other hand, the mRNA expression for TPx-2 had begun increasing at the trophozoite stage and peaked at the schizont stage. In the IFA, TPx-2 was found localized in the mitochondria. The increase of TPx-2 might be explained by the exponential development of the parasite during the schizont stage requiring ATP production which may induce reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the mitochondria.

  • Research article

    (Video) The Heberden Society: Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology

    Thinking differently about specialist imaging education

    Radiography, Volume 23, Issue 3, 2017, pp. 179-180

View full text

Copyright © 2011 American Urological Association Education and Research, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

FAQs

What did James Marion Sims do to slaves? ›

In the 1840s, the Alabama physician James Marion Sims conducted infamous experimental gynaecological surgery exclusively on black women, bound to the surgical table by chattel slavery, physical force and opium. The drug did not allay their pain, and some historians think that they became addicted to it.

What was James Marion Sims known for? ›

Few medical doctors have been as lauded—and loathed—as James Marion Sims. Credited as the “father of modern gynecology,” Sims developed pioneering tools and surgical techniques related to women's reproductive health.

Who is considered the father of gynecology? ›

Abstract. J. Marion Sims (1813-1884) has been called the "Father of Gynecology" for his revolutionary approach to treating the diseases of women. He rose from humble origins to become a successful surgeon, teacher, and writer.

Why are gynecological procedures done without anesthesia? ›

Farid said that providing anesthesia often requires one or more painful injections and because procedures such as endometrial biopsies and IUD insertions are relatively quick, receiving multiple injections may actually be more painful than the procedure itself.

Who is the most famous gynecologist? ›

Top 10 Gynecologists in India
  • Dr. Aradhana Singh. Gynaecologist and Obstetrician. ...
  • Dr. Neera Bhan. Gynaecologist and Obstetrician. ...
  • Dr. Monika Wadhwan. Gynaecologist and Obstetrician. ...
  • Dr. Padmapriya Vivek. Gynaecologist and Obstetrician. ...
  • Dr. Madhu Srivastava. ...
  • Dr. Sita Rajan. ...
  • Dr. Aanchal Agarwal. ...
  • Dr. Sarada M.

Videos

1. Gynecologist TORTURES Black Women
(Joseph Hermosa MD)
2. Medical Bondage and the Birth of American Gynecology
(CMU History)
3. Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology
(Auburn Avenue Research Library)
4. Southern Symbols: Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens
(Speed Art Museum)
5. Ellen Degeneres is Officially CANCELLED After This Happened...
(The Showest)
6. Hayley Barnes, MD - Grand Rounds 11/30/2017
(UWObGyn)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Carlyn Walter

Last Updated: 11/30/2022

Views: 6655

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Carlyn Walter

Birthday: 1996-01-03

Address: Suite 452 40815 Denyse Extensions, Sengermouth, OR 42374

Phone: +8501809515404

Job: Manufacturing Technician

Hobby: Table tennis, Archery, Vacation, Metal detecting, Yo-yoing, Crocheting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Carlyn Walter, I am a lively, glamorous, healthy, clean, powerful, calm, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.