• Day 10

    Day 10 – Health Advancement at the Expense of African Americans

    Today, we will look at three moments in history that advanced health as we know it today, all at the expense of African Americans.  The first is Dr. Sims, the father of modern gynecology, who’s inventions and research we still see today in women’s health, despite his unethical means of research collection.  Next, we will look at Henrietta Lacks, who’s cells that were taken without her permission, continue to help the medical community today.  Lastly, we look at the Tuskegee Experiment that harmed African American families for decades all in the name of scientific research.

    Dr. James Sims was credited for inventing the speculum and many treatments that improved overall women’s health.  To get to these discoveries, he shamefully and unethically tested his theories and surgeries on black women slaves.  He gave no pain killers, and no treatment to the women he experimented on.  Discussions about his legacy still occur today.  View this piece about his statue removal from NYC in 2018.

    Henrietta Lacks went to Johns Hopkins for treatment.  She left as a medical novelty and experiment.  During her treatment, doctors at Johns Hopkins took a sample of her cervical cells without her consent or knowledge.  Because Lack’s cells were replicating at fast rates, the cells could be used for generations for medical research and are still used today.  If you are interested in learning more, I suggest the award winning book The Immortal Life of the Henrietta Lacks.

    The Tuskegee Experiment was another scientific experiment that used human subjects to test the effects of syphilis.  Long after a treatment was discovered, the test subjects did not receive treatment to research how the disease progressed.  Please read the official presidential apology for the Tuskegee Experiment from President Clinton.  The Tuskegee Experiment victims and descendants eventually received a $10 million dollar settlement including health insurance.  

    As we read and learn about some examples of our dark past and history, the debate about reparations come to mind.  Like we saw with the Tuskegee Experiment, financial reparations and an apology were given to the victims and descendants.  The Dr. Sims statue was removed in Central Park.  Reparations are a way to reconcile with the past, asking the questions “How do we repay for what we’ve done?”

    After you engage with the challenge materials on health advancements at the expense of African Americans, share your thoughts on reparations and apologies.  Should African Americans today receive reparations for health violations in the past? You can share your responses with us @LWScienceHealth on Instagram.

    Want to dive deeper into the material? Links to all materials can be found at tinyurl.com/LWSHChallenge.