Sex assignment surgery for intersex child ends in lawsuit

An estimated one in every 2,000 babies is born with ambiguous genitalia in Maryland and across the rest of the country. A pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics reflects the sentiments of many in the medical field that maintain it is best to avoid forcing a child born intersex into a gender assignment by performing an irreversible operation when the child is young. Instead, this pediatrician says it is in the best interest of the child to allow their gender to naturally develop before taking permanent measures.

The adoptive parents of a child born intersex filed lawsuits against the state of South Carolina, two medical facilities and doctors that allowed the negligent surgical procedure for removal of the child’s male genitalia when the child was 16 months old and in state custody.

The doctors assigned this child to be female. When the child’s parents adopted the young toddler at 2 years old, the parents knew the child was born intersex. Owing to the removal of the child’s male genitalia, the parents raised the child female. However, as the child grew, the child did not identify as female, subsequently requesting to be raised male.

The parents fully supported the child’s feelings. The little boy felt more comfortable cutting his hair short and wearing boy clothes instead of girl clothes. The parents report that the community and the boy’s school have been very supportive, but the parents worry about the long-term ramifications of what happened to this little boy.

The attorney representing these parents says, “The doctors knew that sex assignment surgeries on infants...poses a significant risk of imposing a gender that is ultimately rejected by the patient." The attorney additionally cautions that similar surgeries can render a child sterile and without sexual function.

The mistakes of health care providers can cause a lifetime of pain in Maryland or elsewhere across the country. There can be legal recourse for these mistakes. An experienced attorney can assist a victim in pursuing justice.

The outcome of these lawsuits remains to be seen, but the parents of this little boy say that these lawsuits were filed to raise awareness of this issue. The parents hope to deter other health professionals from making this same medical mistake that the parents call a violation of the civil rights of a child that cannot issue consent.

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