Health and medical ethics

For an introduction to these issues, see our page on bodily integrity

On dexamethasone and the making of “normal”

On dexamethasone and the making of “normal”

In 2009 Dr Reis’s book, Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex, examined the cultural contexts that both inform and drive western medicine’s attitudes and responses to intersex bodies. Beginning with the profound homophobia of the 19th through to the 21st centuries, to the taboo topic of neo-vaginal dilation, Reis challenged standard medical practices…
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Star Observer: “Opposition to genital drugs”

Star Observer: “Opposition to genital drugs”

The Star Observer reports on CAH and dexamethasone: Bioethicists have criticised the use of an experimental drug to reduce the risk of girls with a congenital disease being born with an intersex condition and make them conform to sex and gender stereotypes. Girls born with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) often have enlarged genitalia, and in…
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Alice Dreger in Psychology Today: “Can You Hear Us Now?: Is it ethical for doctors to stimulate little girls’ clitorises?”

Professor Alice Dreger writes in Psychology Today’s blog, “Fetishes I Don’t Get”: In a brief article entitled “Bad Vibrations” just posted at the Hastings Center’s Bioethics Forum, my colleague Ellen Feder and I express our shock over the follow-up techniques being used by pediatric urologist Dix Poppas at Weill Medical College of Cornell University on…
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WPATH disorders intersex while depathologizing transgender

From the ‘Response of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health to the Proposed DSM 5 Criteria for Gender Incongruence’: (4) Adding a specifier of “with or without a Disorder of Sex Development” is an improvement over the need to use the “Not Otherwise Specified” diagnosis because individuals with intersex conditions may have a similar…
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On genital surgeries

On genital surgeries

Intersex refers to atypical internal and/or external anatomical sexual characteristics, where features usually regarded as male or female may be mixed to some degree. This is a naturally occurring variation in humans.

Emi Koyama at Bioethics Forum: “Why I am Suspicious of Bioethics”

Emi Koyama at Bioethics Forum: “Why I am Suspicious of Bioethics”

Although OII Australia does not favour the use of “condition” in connection with intersex; this article encapsulates the problems of intersex ‘normalization’ and especially the chemical ‘normalization’ of unborn children. I fear that the campaign to hold the main propagator of the dexamethasone treatment accountable would, if not accompanied by sustained challenges to more fundamental…
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ABC News: “Female circumcision happening in Australia”

ABC News: “Female circumcision happening in Australia”

ABC News reports that female genital mutilation is happening in Australia: “We bring imams or priests to convince them that there is nothing from both books that says you have to do circumcision to girls. So why are you doing it?” Ms Mohamud is optimistic the practice will end, but she fears migrant communities or…
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fetaldex.org Letter of Concern From Bioethicists

The following letter has been sent to: the FDA Office of Pediatric Therapeutics; the HHS Office for Human Research Protections; Mount Sinai Medical Center (Dr. New’s current institution); Weill Medical School of Cornell University (from which much of this treatment appears to have been administered, under Dr. New’s guidance); Florida International University (where Dr. New…
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Katrina Karkazis, “Fixing Sex” (recommended reading)

Katrina Karkazis, “Fixing Sex” (recommended reading)

Published in November 2008, Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience by Katrina Karkazis is compelling and recommended reading. Meticulously researched and approachable in style, it presents a historical analysis of the treatment of intersex people, together with an analysis of both current medical practice and the impact on intersex people and our families….
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What human rights are affected by early medical intervention?

What human rights are affected by early medical interventions aimed at “normalising” the bodies of intersex infants, children and adolescents? The Yogyakarta Principles In particular Principle 18: B: Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that no child’s body is irreversibly altered by medical procedures in an attempt to impose a gender…
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