I’m not 18 yet, and I’m pregnant. I am having the mandatory pre-abortion sonogram. He knows why I am here. He says: “You can hear the heartbeat. Proof that it’s alive.”
2020. General Practitioner.
I’m asking for abortion pills. I wonder about the pain. He says: “If you’re a wuss, you can always take paracetamol.”
2021. General Practitioner.
I’m going there to get a psychiatrist’s referral. He says: “One anxiety attack a week? I have patients in much more worrying situations.”
First maternity appointment. I am six months pregnant. He asks: “Have you been a victim of rape? No ? Well, you’re lucky.”
1984. Professor of Obstetrics.
I’ve just had a therapeutic abortion. He says: “Come on, don’t let a failure stop you. Go home and make love.”
2019. General Practitioner.
I don’t know yet that my weight is due to hormonal problems. He says: “You don’t want to be morbidly obese anymore ? Then have surgery. Given your condition, that’s all I can think of.”
I’m having my thyroid checked regularly after a partial removal. She looks at my file and says: “You’re thirty-one ? Well, if you want children, you’d better start to get on with it. The more you wait, the more it gets complicated for us”.
I’m having a C-section. My arms are tied. He says: “If you keep flailing around like that, I’ll give you a general anaesthetic.”
A medical error occurred. He says: “Your husband died. Yes, ma’am. It happens.”
I ask: “Is there a treatment?” He replies: “There is no treatment. The abnormality lies in the heart’s electrical cells; thus it’s totally unpredictable. You could die at any moment. Just like that, in the street, anywhere.”
I’m having an internal ultrasound because of a suspected ectopic pregnancy. She says: “Well. No need to send birth announcements then.”
After the birth of my second child, I express the wish not to have a third one. He says: “My job is to bring children into the world, not to kill them.
She asks: “What kind of studies do you do?” and without warning, just as I’m about to answer, she pushes a speculum into my vagina.
I come in to buy the morning-after pill. He reacts: “The morning-after pill? Don’t you think you’ve done enough damage as it is?”
I’m having gynecological X-rays. He says: “I’ll put my fingers in, it’ll relax you!”
2019. General Practitioner.
He examines my nine-year-old daughter, who has gained a lot of weight in a very short time over the summer. He says: “If you keep putting on weight like this, no one will like you anymore.”
During the delivery of my second child. The stirrups are being fitted, and the nurses take my legs to put them in. I tell them I don’t want them to; I tell them I would like another position. I ask: “Please, isn’t there another position to do this?” She answers: “No ma’am, there is no other position”.
The radiologist is my ex-husband. He had ultrasounded my mother and suggested she maybe had ovarian cancer. On hearing that his hypothesis has been confirmed by a colleague, he exclaims: “YES! I was RIGHT!”
Post-operative. He says: “You tell me you’re in pain, but I too, if I pressed there, would be in pain.”
I come in to buy the morning-after pill. She says: “If you’ve forgotten to take your pill, there’s really nothing I can do for you.”
I dare to ask a heavy question, full of the fear I carry inside me. She replies: “What do I know if you’re sterile?”
2023. Occupational health doctor.
“Let’s face it: you’re just as likely to have another aortic dissection at home as at the workplace. So I’m going to sign off on your return to work.
I have breast cancer. It was detected by a radiologist, whom I had asked if he thought I was going to have one or both breasts removed. He didn’t know. I underwent chemotherapy and a lumpectomy. After the operation, I had to have a follow-up X-ray. I’m in the waiting room. The radiologist who had detected my cancer passes by, notices me, turns back. With a vague gesture of the hand towards my chest, he asks: “So, they didn’t take them out?”
2016. Head of General and Digestive Surgery.
Before having appendicitis surgery. She asks me to remove all my “lucky” braided bracelets before the operation. She asks: “What do you do for a living? I answer: “I’m an actress.” She replies: “Oh, that’s why! That’s not real work; no wonder you’ve got time to braid bracelets!”
“You Threw This at Us. Now We’re Throwing It Back at You.” is a collaborative and performative piece about medical abuse. I initiated it, by asking women of my close entourage (family, friends, colleagues) what was the most violent thing a member of the medical profession ever told them. Each testimony was given by one of these women. I thank them warmly for their trust. I have also given my own testimony. It lies in there, among the others.
Cover picture by Pauline Picot