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by Alice Domurat Dreger
Republished with kind permission from The Hastings Center Report May/Jun 1998, Volume 28, Issue 3 Pages 24-35.
Subject terms: “Medical ethics,” Surgery, Sexes, Reproductive system, Child development, Babies
Ethical issues in the treatment of intersexuality are examined. It is not at all clear if all or even most of the intersex surgeries done today involve what would legally and ethically constitute informed consent.
Copyright © The Hastings Center May/Jun 1998
What makes us “female” or “male,” “girls” or “boys,” “women” or “men”—our chromosomes, our genitalia, how we (and others) are brought up to think about ourselves, or all of the above? One of the first responses to the birth of a child of ambiguous sex by clinicians, and parents, is to seek to “disambiguate” the situation: to assign the newborn’s identity as either female or male, surgically modify the child’s genitalia to conform believably to that sex identity, and provide other medical treatment (such as hormones) to reinforce the gender decided upon. The assumptions that underly efforts to “normalize” intersexual individuals and the ethics of “treatment” for intersexuality merit closer examination than they generally receive.
2000 John W. Duckett, Jr., M.D. Pediatric Urology Lectureship
Friday, July 21st, 2000
8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Dow Auditorium, Towsley Center
University of Michigan Health System
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Each year, the University of Michigan’s Pediatric Urology Department hosts a lectureship in honor of the late John Duckett (a prominent surgeon well known for his hypospadias surgeries). In 2000, the lectures focused on a single topic: the increasingly evident paradigm shift in medical thinking about intersex.
Douglas A. Canning, M.D.
Associate Professor, Urology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
60 minutes (australia) breaking the silence: Sexual reassignment (antoinette briffa), 2000. Directed by Anon. . Sydney. June 25. Available from: http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/01_stories/2000_06_25/story_185.asp.
Anon. . 2000, Fall. Letters (intersex). Whole Earth, 100-101. Available from: http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m0GER/2000_Fall/66240481/print.jhtml.
Anon. . 2000, August. Frau und mann - alte mythen nuen rollen. Geo Wissen (special issue on intersex), 26. Available from: http://www.geo.de/magazin/wissen/2000/02.html.
Anon. . 1980, July. Letter to the editor. Ms., 9, 12.
Geraldo: Hermaphrodites, 1989. Directed by Anon. . New York: The Investigative News Group. July 27.
I'm not a man; i'm not a woman (sally), 1989. Directed by Anon. . New York. September 29.
Anon. . 1994, 26 September. Dr. Elders’ medical history. New Yorker, 70, 45-46.
Anon. . 1994, Oct/Nov. The intersexed--who are they? What do they want? Genderflex, IV, 13.
Anon. . 1995. Intersex society. The Society Newsletter (Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality), Spring p. 3.
Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., in press. Gender assignment and reassignment in intersexuality: Controversies, data, and guidelines for research. In: Zderic, S. A., Canning, D. A., Synder Iii, H. M., and Carr, M. C. eds. Pediatric gender reassignment: A critical reappraisal. New York: Plenum.
Rosin, M., forthcoming 2005 April. Intersexuality and universal marriage. In: Law and sexuality: A review of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender legal issues: Tulane University Law School.
Anon. . forthcoming. Colombia constitutional court decisions regarding intersex. In: Minter, S., Currah, P., and Juang, R. eds. Transgender rights: History, politics, and law. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.
Sallie Foley, ACSW
Senior Clinical Social Worker
Department of Social Work
University of Michigan Medical Center/Ann Arbor
George W. Morley, MD
Norman E Miller Professor of Gynecology
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
University of Michigan Medical Center Ann Arbor
Originally published as Foley, Sallie, and George W. Morley. 1992. Care and Counseling of the Patient with Vaginal Agenesis. The Female Patient 17 (October):73-80. Republished with kind permission from The Female Patient.
© 1994 Intersex Society of North America
This is the presentation made by Joan Whelan in January, 2002 at the Intersex Panel for Sex Week at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Sex Week, a required part of the curriculum for second year medical students, is a yearly series of lectures, workshops and discussion groups on a wide range of topics concerning human sexuality. The Intersex Panel was arranged by psychologist Nina Williams and consisted of Betsy Driver, Debbie Hartman, Dandara Hill, Kelly Leight, William Reiner M.D., Nina Williams Ph.D., and Joan Whelan (patient advocates, parents, surgeons, psychiatrists, and psychologists).