From Hands of Flesh to Laparoscopy: A History of Endometriosis in Taiwan, 1950s-2000s

Author Info
Ling-Ya Tsai; Hsiu-Yun Wang
Kao Yuan Senior High School of Technology and Commerce; Graduate Institute of Gender Studies, Kaohsiung Medical University

This paper traces the history of endometriosis in Taiwan from the 1950s to the present by analyzing oral history interviews with ob/gyns and women with endometriosis as well as written documents (newspapers, magazines, and books). Endometriosis first emerged in Taiwan in the 1950s, but few cases were reported. Diagnosis relied mainly on gynecological examination by hand or via exploratory surgery. Beginning in the 1970s, endometriosis cases gradually increased as a result of factors such as advances in laparoscopy technology, medicalization of infertility, and physicians writing essays for the popular media. Laparoscopy technology was introduced in the heyday of family planning, and, initially, it was used for sterilization. Soon, alongside ultrasound technology, its use was extended to being a diagnostic tool for endometriosis. This technological dimension is part of what Adele Clarke has termed the biomedicalization of health and illness. This paper explores the history of the extensive, invasive use of reproductive technologies in endometriosis diagnosis and treatment, as well as how those biotechnological procedures often conflicted with women’s body experience in Taiwan.

Taiwanese Journal for Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine, Number 10 (April 2010)