Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One for the bioethics section on "naturalness"

A couple is suing on behalf of their adopted child who was born intersex, because doctors decided to assign the gender "female" to the child when he was 16 months old, before they had custody of the child. The child was judged male at birth, but the doctors changed their minds at 16 months and went with female. He now identifies as male and the suit alleges that he was "a true hermaphrodite" at birth.

Decades ago, doctors would have "corrected" the child's genitalia without ever notifying the parents or even leaving any record of the procedure, because ambiguous genitalia were deemed shameful. The Advocate says doctors are currently encouraged assign a gender at birth but "to hold off on any unnecessary surgery until they are old enough to self-identify with a gender." The fact that doctors are now being sued for what used to be standard operating procedure is a sign of progress.

I'd actually like to know what the child's exact intersex condition is. (A variety of chromosomal and hormonal factors can lead to intersexuality.) This has no bearing on the merits of the case. I'm just nosy.