Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Becomes First In Nation To Ban Cosmetic Genital Surgeries On Intersex Infants

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, to say the least, but at least for now, in my opinion, it’s a major victory and a major step forward.”

The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has become the first hospital in the country to issue a public and formal apology for performing cosmetic genital surgeries on intersex babies and infants. This practice is generally done as a way to “make” an intersex child exist on one side of the gender binary or the other and is considered highly controversial.

The hospital issued its statement on its blog on Tuesday noting that the move was made to end cosmetic genital surgery on intersex children unless the procedures are medically necessary or patients are old enough to give willing, meaningful, and enthusiastic consent.

“We recognize the painful history and complex emotions associated with intersex surgery and how, for many years, the medical field has failed these children,” reads the post. “As the medical field has advanced, and understanding has grown, we now know this approach was harmful and wrong. 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.”

Intersex (aka the “I” in LGBTQIA) is an umbrella term for anyone who identifies as having been born with bodies that are seen as different from the binary male or female. It has become increasingly common for hospitals to perform cosmetic genital surgery on infants born with these bodies that cannot be undone in an effort to aline them with one binary or another. However, this has become increasingly controversial, as intersex activists note this is a defiance of consent to touch a person’s body, and that all people should have the legal right to make the decision about their own body — something they would have to be legally of age to do. Infants are not old enough to give that consent.

Dr. Ellie Kim, a transgender doctor at Lurie Children’s Hospital, was the first employee to speak up about the practice. Now, she says, progress is finally being made.
“I think it’s a great step in the right direction,” Dr. Kim said in an interview with CNN. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, to say the least, but at least for now, in my opinion, it’s a major victory and a major step forward.”

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