Marilyn Milos' acceptance speech for a Nurseweek award for patient advocacy, Los Angeles, May 11, 2001
Marilyn Fayre Milos
I want to especially thank those who find my work worthy because it's not easy to challenge the dominant paradigm, the status quo, or the current medical model and, by recognizing my work, you are really honoring the children, those patients who truly need our advocacy because they are not yet able to protect themselves.
"It was 22 years ago this month that, as a nursing student, I first witnessed a circumcision. I will go to my grave hearing the screams of that tormented baby in my ears. As I watched in disbelief, I began to cry. The doctor looked up at me and said, 'There is no medical reason for doing this.'
"Within a year, I'd done enough research to know that the doctor was right, and I began telling everyone what I had learned only to realize that I was talking about 'down there' to people who didn't want to admit they had a 'down there' much less hear about the harm and horror of circumcision.
"As a nurse, I told parents what I wished someone had told me before my sons were circumcised. I thought every parent had a right and an obligation to be fully informed. I was told to keep my mouth shut. So, I made a video of a circumcision for parents. I was told it was too much for parents to see. I said, 'Perhaps, then, it's too much for a baby to endure!' The video was censored, and, in 1985, I got the ultimate censorship I was fired.
"Actually, I was unmuzzled. As my husband said, 'When they told Marilyn to keep her mouth shut, they told the wrong person!' I founded NOCIRC [the National Organisation of Circumcision Information and Resource Centres], which today has more than 110 centers in 15 different countries and Roster status with the United Nations. So, I'd like to tell you this: when you recognize something that is wrong, you can change it. Bette Reese said, 'If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in bed with a mosquito.' And, Winston Churchill said, 'Never, never, never, never give up.'
"My work reflects what Ghandi said about bringing change: 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.' I accept this award on behalf of the infants and children who need our protection. Your recognition of their need and my work lets me know that we're closer to winning.
(One aspect that makes this award notable is that it recognises that the baby, not his parents, is the patient - though he's not a patient, since there's nothing the matter with him.)
Sponsors of the event included the Little Company of Mary Hospital, SHARP HealthCare of San Diego, UCLA School of Nursing, Kaiser Permanente, Valley Children's Hospital, Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, and Memorial Hospitals Association (A Sutter Health Affiliate).
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