Citation for: OPEM -> Deadly Trio — Misogyny, Midwifery & the “Morale” of Medical Doctors

by faithgibson on March 20, 2018

“A recent article in the American Magazine on census taking stated that there was only one occupation that men were not listed for, and that was “midwife. 1925-A p. 348 ^86

“..vitally important question of how we shall provide competent medical services for the hundreds of thousands of the very best of our women while they are fulfilling the sacred obligation of maternity “. [1912-B, p.22] ^87

Sarcastic Definition of Obstetrics

Obstetrics comes from the Latin word meaning “to stand before” or as a sneering colleague once said, “to stand around.” From the days of ancient Egypt and Greece old women have been standing around at confinements; and now, much as then; and all that many doctors are able to do is to stand around; in fact, since anyone can stand around, anyone can do the job. “ [1922-A; ZeilgerMD, p. 409] ^85

“The midwife has been a drag on the progress of the science and art of obstetrics. Her existence stunts the one and degrades the other. For many centuries she perverted obstetrics from obtaining any standing at all among the science of medicine.” [1915-C; DeLeeMD p.114] ^88

“Obstetrics is held in disdain by the profession and the public.. The public reason correctly. If an uneducated woman of the lowest class may practice obstetrics, is instructed by the doctors and licensed by the State, (birth attendance) certainly must require very little knowledge and skill —surely it cannot belong the science and art of medicine.” [1915-C; DeLeeMD p.115] ^92

Dr. DeLee: “We are asked to educate the midwife as a matter of expediency, to provide a little better care of the poor, the ignorant woman or foreigner and, we are told, though I do not believe it, that 40% of the women in American must have midwives. The 60% employing doctors are well to do, or at least no paupers — educated and Americans. ^89

“Now I hope I will not be misunderstood… I …take second place to no man or woman in my regard for the poor, the ignorant, the foreign-born childbearing mother. But I have just as high regard for the well-to-do, the educated and the American woman and I must raise my voice against a measure which, I am convinced from 25 years of deep, close observation and study, will tend to jeopardize her health and life. While we may, by educating midwives, improve the conditions of the 40% (midwife-attended), we will delay progress in ameliorating the evil conditions under which the 60% (physician-attended) now existFor every life saved in the 40%we will lose many more in the 60%.

“Ideas and ideals are the hardest things in the world to establish, but once established they are impossible to eradication and they raise the plane of human existence. It is, therefore, worthwhile to sacrifice everything, including human life, to accomplish the ideal.** Knowing this I am willing … to close my eyes to what the midwives are doing and establish high ideals. Then all, poor and ignorant, as well as rich and educated — the 40% as well as the 60% will enjoy the benefits of improved conditions. ^90

In all human endeavor, improvement begins at the top and slowly percolates down throughout the masses. One man runs ahead of the crowd and plants a standard, then drives the rest up to it. Search history, biblical and modern, and this fact stands out brilliantly.” [1915-C, Dr. Joesph DeLee, MD]^91

**[editor’s note:] Dr. DeLee is speaking about the common medical prejudice that male doctorswould be “naturally” superior birth attendants (compared to women midwives) if only they had sufficient clinical material available to them during medical training. Once doctors had these “superior skills”, midwives should be eliminated. In order to accomplish this dubious goal, Dr. DeLee is arguing against the establishment of formal training schools for midwives, even though such training would improve the care of midwives, thus reducing the risk to mothers and babies.

In other words, the training of midwives would“waste” clinical material and give the midwife “to much dignity and importance“. Therefore, he is seriously recommending that the unnecessary deaths of mothers and babies (preventable had the midwife been equipped with the additional skills of formal training) was a “reasonable” price to pay for the “greater good” of his “Ideal Obstetrics“.