Protesters rally to remove NYC statue of Civil War-era physician who allegedly experimented on slaves

Following a national movement to remove public statues commemorating figures from the Confederacy, protestors have asked public officials to remove the statue of James Marion Sims, MD, a Confederate-era physician who allegedly experimented on enslaved black women without their consent, according to USA Today.

A petition calling on the statue's removal garnered more than 600 signatures as of Aug. 22.

"While we value and learn from the pioneering accomplishments of the founders of modern medicine, we cannot overlook the brutality of Sims' methods," the petition states. "It is disturbing that we continue to honor Sims by keeping a statue of him in the shadow of the New York Academy of Medicine. The savagery of his practices require that the statue be taken down."

Nicknamed "the father of gynecology," Dr. Sims allegedly conducted experimental operations on at least 10 enslaved women with vesicovaginal fistula, or an abnormal connection between the bladder and the vagina that often causes urinary incontinence. The enslaved women "were not asked if they would agree to such an operation … [and] they were in no way volunteers for Dr. Sims's research," according to a report published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 1993.

The first enslaved woman Dr. Sims operated on, Lucy, "was operated on without anaesthetics … The surgery lasted for an hour and Lucy endured excruciating pain while positioned on her hands and knees … as twelve doctors observed the operation," according to the report. However, the operation failed and Lucy "nearly lost her life," the report states.

The deputy press secretary for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told USA Today via email Monday the city plans to put together a panel of experts and community leaders to create the framework to be used to evaluate public structures and controversial pieces of art.

A student at New York City-based Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai also told USA Today students are reportedly introduced to Dr. Sims and his legacy in the field during orientation.

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