Paediatric surgeon Mika Venhola on intersex

Mika Venhola is a Deputy Chief of the Oulu University Hospital Department of Pediatrics and Adolescence. We included a partial transcript of this interview in one of our submissions to the Australian Senate Inquiry on involuntary or coerced sterilisation.

Why operate on the child’s body if the problem is in the minds of the adults?

Some extracts from this groundbreaking interview:

When I was training to become a paediatric surgeon I was taught how to do these, let’s say, corrective, in parentheses, “corrective” cosmetic surgeries, and at that time it was not allowed to criticise your elders, and it was impossible to voice out then my expression or thoughts on this one. But when I was doing my first intersex surgery due to cosmetic reasons I felt it was such a huge human rights violation, and especially the children’s rights violation, that I swore I will never do this when I am independent and can decide for myself. And I have never done it, since then. It kind of struck me so hard that it is not right…

It’s time to stop and think… And this is the part of growing up, to see that surgery is not the solution to everything. It is a saying that, “if you give a surgeon a hammer, every problem is a nail”. And I’m trying to see the screws also.

There are patients that will do much better without surgery. And I as the surgeon do not lose anything there; I don’t have to do surgery… [I am] trying to figure out the patients who benefit from my surgical skills and who are the patients I should not operate, who would do better with some other treatment or no treatment at all.