Miss Charlotte Cushman's Health - Letter to the Editor from Dr. Sims in The New York Times, Oct 3, 1869

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Miss Charlotte Cushman's Health - Letter to the Editor from Dr. Sims in The New York Times, Oct 3, 1869


Racism/Racist Violence
Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876
New York Times
Intimacy--As topic


Dr. James Marion Sims replies to an article of The New York Times of Oct 2, 1869, and feels entitled to comment on Charlotte Cushman's post-operation state of health and diagnosis without having treated her on this issue. (He had dismissed her health concerns, when she had consulted with him earlier. Cushman consequently underwent treatment with J. Y. Simpson instead, who recommended a mastectomy.)
For this violation of confidentiality, the Ethics Committe of the New York Academiy of Medicine brings charges against him.
For more detailed information on this case, see Deboard Kuhn McGregor's From Midwives to Medicine: The Birth of American Gynecology (Rutgers UP, 1998; p. 174–178).
Sims is known for his contributions to gynecological medical practices. His scientific work involved medical practices for which he used enslaved Black women, often without anasthesia. See "Black Subjectivity and the Origins of American Gynecology."


Sims, J. Marion, 1813-1883


The New York Times





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The sad news given in yesterday's TIMES by your correspondent at Malvern in reference to the health of Miss CUSHMAN, will carry sorrow to the thousands of her friends here. It is to quiet all apprehensions of immediate danger that I venture to write these lines.
MISS CUSHMAN called to see me in Paris on the 4th June last. She was in apparently vigorous health, yet she had had for some time a little inderrated [sic] gland that gave her great mental anxiety, but no physical suffering. I advised her to let it alone, to avoid all immediate surgical interference, to go to Malvern for the season and to dismiss the subject from her thoughts.
It seems that she went to Malvern, but unfortunately she has submitted to extirpation of the gland. Now, what I wish to say is this: there was no immediate danger in her disease. and there could be no sort of danger on the operation, per se, for it is one of the easiest and simplest in the whole range of surgery. As she was, on or before the 16th of September, (the date of your correspondent's letter,) lying "at the point of death, quite given up by her friends," I am pretty sure that the operation must have been followed by erysipelas, for from the very nature of the case, it is almost the only accident that could have happened. Now, erysipelas is a disease that would by self-limitation have terminated before this either in convalescence or death. And as we have received  no news by telegram of the latter, the interference is clear to my mind that our gifted countrywoman is now convalescent.
Let us then hope for the best till we know the worst.
Believe me, Sir, yours, &c.




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Sims, J. Marion, 1813-1883, “Miss Charlotte Cushman's Health - Letter to the Editor from Dr. Sims in The New York Times, Oct 3, 1869,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed July 15, 2024, https://archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/362.

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