‘Doctors Not Knowing Best’: Bowdoin’s Susan Bell on Synthetic Estrogen, Transformation of Women’s Health Politics (Our Bodies Ourselves)

Susan Bell

Forty years ago, a New England Journal of Medicine article about the synthetic estrogen known as DES became a turning point in the course of modern medicine.

Originally touted as a wonder drug to prevent miscarriages, DES would later be identified as the first transplacental carcinogen, leaving daughters who were exposed to DES during pregnancy to experience problems in their own pregnancies and to develop reproductive tract cancer.

Susan E. Bell, Bowdoin’s A. Myrick Freeman Professor of Social Sciences, who began a research project 30 years ago to understand the experiences of so-called “DES daughters,” writes in celebration of the courage and activism that have become important parts of the DES story.

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