In an outstandingly positive, celebratory moment for the intersex community, Lurie Childrens’ Hospital in Chicago just became the first institution of its kind to apologize for performing medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex infants, and to temporarily stop performing them while it re-evaluates its protocols. We note that the apology comes just two weeks after Lurie’s fell under celebrity scrutiny for claiming to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQIA community while still cutting up intersex babies and children in an effort to make them “normal.”
“We recognize the painful history and complex emotions associated with intersex surgery and how, for many years, the medical field has failed these children,” the statement said. “Historically care for individuals with intersex traits included an emphasis on early genital surgery to make genitalia appear more typically male or female. As the medical field has advanced, and understanding has grown, we now know this approach was harmful and wrong. Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and our Sex Development Clinic recognizes this truth. We empathize with intersex individuals who were harmed by the treatment that they received according to the historic standard of care and we apologize and are truly sorry.”
As reported in The Chicago Tribune:
In a written statement released to the Tribune, Lurie officials said the hospital already has a policy against performing cosmetic genital surgeries on intersex children too young to give meaningful consent, with one exception: Children with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), who often grow up to view the surgeries favorably and may not consider themselves intersex.
The hospital said it will now temporarily halt cosmetic genital surgeries on children with CAH, who can have female internal organs and chromosomes, along with genitals that look masculine.
“When it comes to surgery (for children with CAH), we are committed to reexamining our approach,” says the statement, which is signed by Lurie President and CEO Dr. Thomas Shanley; chief medical officer Dr. Derek Wheeler; urology division head Dr. Earl Cheng; and adolescent and young adult medicine division head Dr. Robert Garofalo.
Over the next six months, Lurie plans to “carefully and critically evaluate” whether the surgeries should continue in the case of children with CAH, the statement said.
“This is a pivotal moment,” said Dr. Ellie Kim, a researcher in the division of adolescent and young adult medicine, and the first Lurie employee to publicly denounce the surgeries. “These are medically unnecessary, purely cosmetic procedures that are being done on (children) as young as 2 years old, simply to normalize their bodies into a binary definition of male and female,” she said, adding that the surgeries are fraught with risk because doctors can’t be sure what the child’s adult gender will be, and medical complications are common.
According the The Chicago Tribune, Kim, whom is trans and tweets @SuperKnovaMusic, had quietly supported a ban on the surgeries at Lurie for a long time, but with Moore and other celebrities speaking out earlier this month, she felt compelled to go public.
We thank the many intersex activists whose years of work paved the way for this historic development! In particular, we thank and commend our colleagues Pidgeon Pagonis and Sean Safia Wall at The Intersex Justice for pushing for this moment via three years of protests at Lurie’s–your hard work is paying off! We are also deeply grateful to trans and non-binary actor Indya Moore for publicly calling for support, and to the pioneering medical providers whom have have publicly spoken out recently and in the past in favor of allowing intersex people to make these decision for ourselves.