Friday, June 18, 2010

Medical Sexual Assault of Children at Cornell

There are major, major, trigger warnings on this story in general and the articles posted specifically. But the word needs to spread about what is happening at Cornell.

Bad Vibrations | Bioethics Forum
For over a decade, many people (including us) have criticized this surgical practice. Critics in medicine, bioethics, and patient advocacy have questioned the surgery’s necessity, safety, and efficacy. We still know of no evidence that a large clitoris increases psychological risk (so is the surgery even necessary?), and we do know of substantial anecdotal evidence that it does not increase risk. Importantly, there also seems to be evidence that clitoroplasties performed in infancy do increase risk – of harm to physical and sexual functioning, as well as psychosocial harm.

But we are not writing today to again bring attention to the surgeries themselves. Rather, we are writing to express our shock and concern over the follow-up examination techniques described in the 2007 article by Yang, Felsen, and Poppas. Indeed, when a colleague first alerted us to these follow-up exams – which involve Poppas stimulating the girls’ clitorises with vibrators while the girls, aged six and older, are conscious – we were so stunned that we did not believe it until we looked up his publications ourselves.

Can You Hear Us Now? | Psychology Today
Finally, do we really think this is like what happened in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study? Yup. A population gets marked as being not normal sexually, and then ends up as research fodder with sub-standard ethics oversight, without anyone even telling them they're research fodder. The docs publish years of follow-up studies in medical journals, and their colleagues, including the medical journal editors, don't stop and say, "Wait, what now? What are you doing?" And the only way these girls are going to get protected is if the press finally gets involved.

We Need to Talk About IGM... | bird of paradox
Consider: the report states that the subjects had enlarged clitorises, and that this anatomical variation “is often a prominent manifestation of virilizing congenital adrenal hyperplasia and other disorders of sexual development”.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia(CAH) is an endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of virilising hormones and as such is already known to the medical profession as an intersex variation – or “disorder of sexual development, the preferred pathologising and stigmatising term which, although preferred by the medical profession, is objected to by some intersex activists.

It seems increasingly likely to me that, not only are we talking about a research project on intersex children, but also that that fact is being suppressed in Dreger and Feder’s article