Thursday, March 01, 2012

Birth Around the World: Dr. Beatrice Tucker and Chicago Maternity Center

I just came across a must-read article about Dr. Beatrice Tucker and her work with the Chicago Maternity Center, which provided prenatal care and home birth to Chicago's working class for over four decadies (1932-1973). Dr. Tucker trained with Dr. Joseph DeLee (infamous for his "giving birth is like falling on a pitchfork" analogy). I admire her tireless work to provide safe, humane care for people who weren't usually seen as worthy of consideration. I love how she kept meticulous records and analyzed every poor outcome to find ways to improve her care.

A few excerpts to whet your appetite:
The Chicago Maternity Center was not located on the grounds of a prestigious medical school like Harvard, Johns Hopkins or University of Chicago. It was not a wing of a world famous hospital or a clinic like Mayo, the Cleveland Clinic or Mt. Sinai. Instead the Maternity Center was located at 1336 South Newberry Street in the heart of Chicago’s West Side. When Dr. Beatrice Tucker became the Maternity Center director in 1932, West Side Chicago was a desperately poor immigrant working class community.

The diseases of urban poverty like tuberculosis, anemia, rickets, & syphilis stalked the lives of the residents. Housing was miserably hot in the summer and icy cold in the winter. There was unemployment, labor exploitation, malnutrition, street violence and domestic abuse. All of this combined into a perfect storm of mental and physical stress to further weaken human immune systems. Yet the dogged physicians, interns and nurses of the Center who went into these homes to deliver babies had better success rates than some of the finest private hospitals. Tucker respected the competent midwives and doctors that she met in the course of her work in the Chicago slums, but was contemptuous of those who did not share her passion for constant improvement. All patients deserved only the best....

Tucker and Benaron set an example of calm compassionate caring for their Center medical workers. Their patients were human beings and deserved to be treated as such. The pseudo-science of eugenics was popular among the moneyed elite before the Nazi Holocaust made those ideas unpopular. Eugenicists questioned why any money or resources should be directed to the "subhuman" population who lived in the urban slums of cities like Chicago.The Center had no use for those ugly racist, class biased ideas. All patients deserved respect and all life was sacred. Period....

Today a gleaming ultra-modern medical complex overlooks the Eisenhower Expressway not far from where the Chicago Maternity Center dispatched its medical workers. The Illinois Medical District is the largest medical center in the USA. Its gleaming towers are a testament to corporate medicine in all of its glory. You can take the Pink Line of the CTA from downtown Chicago and be there in a few minutes.

Just a short distance away from the Illinois Medical District are Chicago neighborhoods where the maternal and infant death rates are worse than in some 3rd World countries. There seems to be a historical amnesia about the medical advances that the Chicago Maternity Center made in its Fight for Life. Corporate profit has triumphed over the deeply personal and highly effective medical procedures practiced and taught by Dr. Tucker.

The original article has several photos and videos. Read the rest here--it's worth your time.

1 comment:

  1. I am from that area and this article is so right, it's about money not sad!


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