Monday, October 9, 2017

Enslaved Women in the Making of the "Father of Gynecology"

In a recent commentary for the Hastings Center, Professor Deleso Alford highlights an important historical fact unknown to most medical students - enslaved black women were subjected to numerous experimental surgeries to perfect the speculum commonly referred to as "the Sims." 

As such, Professor Alford recommends cultural competency courses in medical school curriculums that  "include narratives of vulnerable women whose bodies have been used for and affected by medical research and advancement—stories that have been neglected in the annals of medical history. Addressing cultural competency from a critical race-feminist perspective would help equip medical doctors to “see” their diverse patients as humans with a history and a “her-story,” not simply potential subjects of scientific advancement in reproductive health care."

Her recommendation is based on the article Critical Race Feminist Bioethics: Telling Stories in Law School and Medical School in Pursuit of ‘Cultural Competency where Professor Alford argues "the particularized and unique experiences of enslaved Black women have been traditionally viewed as extracting assets from her body in the form of a “crop of human labor” in the historically referred to role as a so-called “breeder." The focal point of this article is to explore a means to address the impact of continuing to tell the narrative on the development of the medical specialty of gynecology in the United States without the benefit of a “herstorical” lens."

To read the full commentary in at the Hastings Center, click here.

To read Critical Race Feminist Biotheics, click here.

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