Intersex Activists Push Hospitals to Ditch Nonconsensual Surgeries on Children

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10/26/2020

When Marissa Adams was a toddler, she underwent surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital to make her genitalia look more like a doctor’s idea of “normal.” Like as many as 1.7 percent of people, Adams is intersex, born with some combination of hormonal, chromosomal or anatomical differences that put her outside of the textbook definition of female or male. And like a growing number of intersex people, she has spoken out about how surgery performed when she was too young to understand it left her with lasting emotional and physical difficulties. On October 21, Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the leading pediatric institutions in the country, announced it would stop performing two procedures — one used to construct or reduce the size of a clitoris and another used to construct or augment a vagina — until patients are old enough to consent. “After convening an interdisciplinary group to review our policies and practices, Boston Children’s has decided we will not perform clitoroplasty or vaginoplasty in patients who are too young to participate in a meaningful discussion of the implications of these surgeries, unless anatomical differences threaten the physical health of the child,” read a statement provided to Truthout from the hospital’s behavioral health, endocrinology and urology program.

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