Listen Live
Listen Live Graphics (Indy)

The relationship between Black women and American medicine has a terrifying history.

6 Medical Incidents That Gave Black Women Reason Not To Trust Doctors  was originally published on

1. J. Marion Sims statue removed in New York City,

J. Marion Sims statue removed in New York City,

Activists petitioned for the statue of doctor J Marion Sims to be removed from Central Park after it was discovered that many of his medical practices were inhumane against Black women. Sims, irresponsibly hailed the ‘grandfather of gynecology’ by some, performed experimental surgeries on black women without anesthesia in the 1800s.

2. Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks

In 1931 Henrietta Lacks sought medical treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital while experiencing vaginal bleeding. During the examination, Dr. Howard Jones discovered a malignant tumor on her cervix. A sample of her cancer cells was sent to Dr. George Gey’s lab, who discovered while most patient’s samples died, Lacks’ samples doubled every 20-24 hours. The harvested cells eventually were used in a variety of medical breakthroughs, including the polio vaccine, but the Lacks’ family never received reimbursement for the non permissible use of her cells. Oprah Winfrey played the daughter of Henrietta Lacks in her 2017 HBO film.

3. Lawsuit Filed Against Longtime USC Gynecologist

Lawsuit Filed Against Longtime USC Gynecologist

Attorneys filed a class-acion lawsuit against the University Of Southern California and former campus gynecologist George Tyndall who allegedly sexually harassed and molested hundreds of students during his 30 years of employment at the university. Since the lawsuit was announced, many Black female students have come forward claiming they were assaulted by the doctor.

4. Doctors Prescribe Less Opioids For Pain To Black People

Doctors Prescribe Less Opioids For Pain To Black People

Adding to the narrative that Black people are expected to be able to tolerate more pain, a 2014 study showed that medical practitioners were less likely to prescribe opioids to Black veterans than their white counterparts.

5. Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Even though the Tuskegee Syphilis study affected Black men, their mistreatment had ripple effects and contributed to distrust of medical professionals amongst the Black community. The unethical study, conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service, coerced men into entering the program without telling them their illnesses would never be treated. According to Getty, here, Ninety-four-year-old Herman Shaw(R) embraces US President Bill Clinton after receiving a public apology for being victimized in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in ceremonies at the White House.

6. Relf V. Weinberger Sterilization Case

Relf V. Weinberger Sterilization Case

Mary Alice & Minnie Relf, poor Black sisters in Alabama, were sterilized at the age of 14 and 12. Their mother was coerced into signing a document on a piece of paper that she believed would provide birth control to her mentally disabled children. In 1974, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of the sisters. The suit revealed 100,000 to 150,000 poor people were being sterilized each year using federal dollars. Source: PBS