Dr. Ellen Feder, "Doctor's Orders: Parents and Intersexed Children"

Classification: News


May 15, 2003

Dr. Ellen Feder, of American University, has written an excellent and important
chapter on parents and intersexed children in a volume on care and dependency.
The work is significant in that it is the first account of intersex based on
interviews with parents. Dr. Feder argues that the isolation of parents and
medicine's failure to take account of their experiences is unfortunate; but
more than that, parents' isolation and confusion are built into the treatment
process itself.

That is, unlike some other situations in which parents with disabled children
are provided access to resources and support groups, the parents of children
with intersex conditions are treated instrumentally, primarily as the source
of informed consent to support doctor's decision. But parents are not given
crucial information about their child's condition and are not connected to
important social and psychological resources. The end result is that while
parents attempt to do the best they can for their children,their decisions
are shaped within a medical context that privileges expert knowledge over full
disclosure, and normalization over a child's future sensation and qualify of

The full reference for this valuable scholarship is:

Ellen K. Feder, 2002, "Doctor's Orders: Parents and Intersexed Children." Pp.
294-320 in The Subject of Care: Feminist Perspectives on Dependency, edited
by Eva Feder Kittay and Ellen K. Feder. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield
Publishers, Inc.

The article can be downloaded.