Doctors Have Used Science To Hide Brutality Against Black Bodies

doctor and nurse examining a patient
Alyssa Guzik
May 16, 2024

It's messed up, but for centuries, Black bodies have been used without consent for medical experimentation. From the days when enslaved men, women, and children were subjected to inhumane treatment to the Tuskegee syphilis study and beyond, it's a grim reality.

Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy were three enslaved women who were subjected to experimentation without consent. Unable to work after giving birth, their enslavers turned them over to a doctor to “fix” them.

This “father of modern gynecology” did everything from forcing these women to crouch on all fours while he examined their genitals with his fingers, hands, and a bent spoon, to having 18-year old Lucy endure an hour-long surgery with her elbows on her knees while other doctors watched. These kinds of torture wouldn’t be the last.

Doctors used science to exploit Black bodies in search of cures. From not obtaining informed consent, not treating the 600 Black men in the Tuskegee experiments, harvesting cancer cells from Henrietta Lacks, to forcibly sterilizing Black people across the Southern U.S., it’s no wonder that Black people don’t trust doctors.

Medical abuse of Black bodies is not a few isolated incidents. We have long been violently used and abused “for science.”  Yet, after all the brutalization to advance medicine, we still have poorer medical care and worse outcomes. Quite telling, isn’t it?