A BMJ (British Medical Journal) reader wants to launch a campaign to stop the word “scrape” being used by doctors as slang for dilatation and curettage. She says she finds it a vulgar, unsympathetic, insensitive, and ultimately traumatizing term for a procedure that women undergo immediately after losing a baby through miscarriage. She’s calling for a more delicate term to replace it; one that can better describe the procedure at a time when women are emotionally and physically vulnerable.

BMJ 2010; 340: c129

I agree. I felt very uncomfortable when i was called to observe two abortions and the gynaecologist was telling me that “you should keep scraping until you hear the scratching sounds. Then you know all the fetus has been removed”. (This happened when i was doing an elective in a resource-limited hospital, so i am not sure whether it makes a difference to the experience i encountered.) I found it very barbaric and my repulsion for this specialty has only increased.

Also the abortions that i witnessed were ten week pregnancies. The fetus that was scraped out did not resemble any living creature. The scrapings were more like suspensions collected in a large test tube-like container. A nurse actually left the container at the foot of the bed of one of the patients, and the patient was stirring out of her anesthesia. I was horrified. I did not want the patient to see the test tube, put two and two together and suffer indescribable agony. Neither did i want to touch the test tube of fetus. Fortunately, another nurse noticed the mistake and hurriedly retrieved it. Sometimes, i am still appalled at how careless we can be.


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