- Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago released a statement denouncing cosmetic genital surgery on intersex infants earlier this week.
- It’s unclear how many cosmetic genital surgeries were carried out on infants at the hospital.
- The hospital said that moving forward, it would only conduct such surgeries on people who are old enough to make decisions on their own.
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A Chicago hospital has become the first in the nation to apologise for performing cosmetic genital surgeries on infants with intersex anatomy.
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago said in a statement on its blog Tuesday that the “medical field has failed” those children.
The hospital said while it and many other healthcare providers spent years putting an “emphasis on early genital surgery to make genitalia appear more typically male or female,” it is now saying the approach was “harmful and wrong.”
“Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and our Sex Development Clinic recognises this truth,” the hospital said. “We empathise with intersex individuals who were harmed by the treatment that they received according to the historic standard of care and we apologise and are truly sorry.”
According to CNN, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is the first hospital to apologise for carrying out such surgeries.
As defined by the Intersex Society of North America, intersex is a “general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.”
People who have intersex anatomy might be born with a mix of female and male anatomy, for example. While some intersex anatomy can be seen at birth, some people don’t find out they have it until puberty, and others might never realise.
The Human Rights Campaign reported in 2017 that 1.7% of babies are born with intersex anatomy, and doctors recommend cosmetic surgery for around one in 2,000 babies.
Undergoing cosmetic surgery to fit old definitions of male or female was a popular procedure for infants born with noticeable intersex anatomy dating back to the 1960s, according to the Human Rights Campaign. But in recent years, activists have called for an end to such surgeries, saying people should have a right decide for themselves once they’re older.
It’s unknown how many children underwent cosmetic surgery for intersex anatomy at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, but doctors from the facility said in its blog post that they reevaluated their approach after speaking with other medical professionals and people affected by intersex anatomy.
The hospital now says that people born with intersex anatomy will not be able to receive cosmetic genital procedures until they’re old enough to make the decisions themselves.
“Just as the model of care has evolved over the last several decades, we expect to continue to evolve,” the doctors said. “We believe it is our duty to listen to all individuals and families, review and scrutinize evidence, and change as appropriate. We have regularly engaged in, welcome, and will continue to discuss how to achieve optimal care for individuals with intersex traits.”
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