Classification: News

21 October 1998

San Francisco




Noted sex researcher Milton Diamond, in an invited lecture

last Saturday, told the American Academy of Pediatrics that

the time has come to instate  a general moratorium on

genital surgeries and sex reassignments performed on

intersex children without their consent.

"No large scale or even small scale study shows that 'normalizing

surgery' does more good than harm," the University of Hawaii

researcher told the packed room. Though they have been performed

for more than 40 years, the procedures remain experimental,

and without data it is impossible for parents to give informed

consent on their children's behalf, he observed.

Earlier presentations by surgeons served to underscore Diamond's

charges. Surgeon Laurence Baskin of the University of California

at San Francisco presented three dimensional images of fetal

clitoral neuroanatomy. Though surgeons attempting to reduce

the clitorises of intersex infants have claimed that the

nerves are highly localized in bundles at the 11:00 and 1:00

positions, making possible preservation of sensation and hopefully

sexual function, Baskin's images demonstrated that the

innervation is circumferentially distributed. Questioned

about what this means for the future sexual function of

girls subjected to clitoral surgery as infants,

Baskin repeatedly emphasized, "We have *no* data."

Diamond also called for a concerted effort to be made to undo

the effects of past physician deception. He cited not only the

direct harm inflicted upon patients by deception, but also indirect

effects. A policy of deception undermines relations of trust

and confidence between patient and provider and conveys the clear

message that intersexuality is "unspeakably shameful in the minds

of parents and physicians." And as intersexuality becomes more widely

known,  not only intersexuals but the community at large learns

that "doctors choreography familial mendacity and dysfunction."