No pardon for Sims
To the AUGS Board of Directors,
We the undersigned AUGS members ask that the AUGS board unequivocally denounce the human experimentation performed by J. Marion Sims. We recognize the complexity of the history surrounding Sims and, because of its complexity, seek reconsideration of how Sims is presented by our society to the world. Currently, there is an honorific lecture in Sims’ name and a description of this lecture and his legacy on the AUGS website. There is no acknowledgement of the complexity of this history or of the slave women upon whom he experimented.
We ask that AUGS promptly convene a committee to study this issue in consultation with experts from diverse backgrounds to form a recommendation of how to handle the legacy of J. Marion Sims going forward. We ask that the current statements on the website regarding Sims be removed immediately until this consensus has been reached. Finally, particularly in light of recent events, we also ask that consideration be given to this year’s J. Marion Sims lecture and to providing a more balanced presentation of this history. The invited lecturer obscures the controversy. While Dr. Wall’s credentials and body of work are impressive, many, many medical historians completely disagree with his writings. See links below for a selection of references.
Outrage at the continued veneration of Sims is not new. However, this is a moment in our nation’s history where many organizations and institutions are seeking to understand our past without continuing to venerate what is abhorrent. In many communities, there are monuments to Sims, and efforts to remove them or provide context are underway. We have an opportunity to present a balanced and truthful understanding of our own profession’s history. This will communicate respect to our patients and members who feel excluded by the current position. AUGS has the opportunity to honor the memory of Anarcha, Lucy, Betsey and the other unnamed women whose unintentional contributions and unknowable sacrifice to our profession deserve respect and recognition. As a community of providers of healthcare for women, it is our responsibility to lead wherever we can in issues advocating justice for women. We trust that the leadership of AUGS will choose to follow their mission of “promoting quality patient care through excellence in education, research and advocacy” by having the courage to address this difficult topic with integrity. Standing by is not an option. Prompt action must be taken.