Location: 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue
Artist/Designer: Ferdinand von Miller II
Materials: Bronze, North Jay granite
Funding: By subscription (colleagues, patients, and friends)
James Marion Sims was a pioneering physician in the mid-nineteenth century. Considered the father of modern gynecology, he devised instruments as well as examination and surgical procedures that are used to this day.
Perhaps his biggest surgical breakthrough was the development of a technique to repair a fistula, or abnormal connection, between the bladder and vagina that results in incontinence and other debilitating effects. He is also notorious for the way he developed the technique. Between 1845 and 1849, Sims repeatedly operated, without anesthesia, on three slave women who had the condition, even after anesthesia was available. A debate in the press and in medical journals has been ongoing for the past 40 years or so: Was Sims cruel and biased against his patients, or was he a man of his time who made life better for many people? Some New Yorkers would like to see additional information posted at Sims’ monument to reflect what they see as his questionable ethics.
The prevailing opinion of the medical community, at least in the early 1930s, seemed to be that Sims was worthy of honor. This opinion was reflected in the 1934 relocation of his statue, originally erected in 1894 in Bryant Park, to its present site across the street from the New York Academy of Medicine and between what was then Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital.
Dr. James Marion Sims
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