The Push to Ban Intersex Medical Intervention

Lane Palmer


Urol Nurs. 2019;39(3):147-149. 

In This Article


In the past, there was relatively little information for pediatric urologists to draw from. Such conditions are relatively rare, meaning that physicians were often confronted with situations they had never encountered before and for which they could find little to no literature. In addition, there was meager support from other medical fields, meaning that urologists had to consider issues, such as mental health, without the aid of psychologists or psychiatrists. Furthermore, their considerations were often constrained by the social prejudices and limited availability of surgical options. Unfortunately, despite their and the infant parents' best intentions, there is little to no doubt that some surgeries and decisions had disastrous consequences.

Today, the situation has improved dramatically. Parents and pediatric urologists are often supported through a multiprofessional team of experts, including endocrinologists, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. As our understanding of neuroscience and sexuality evolves, these medical professionals have been able to create a more holistic understanding of intersexuality. This involves considering not only the physical, mental, and emotional implications of surgery, but the implications of not having surgery as well.

Studies have been undertaken to determine what happens to intersex children who either do or do not undergo surgery. Professionals have gained a much deeper understanding of the implications of surgery and the relationship between sexual maturation and the various intersex conditions (Societies for Pediatric Urology et al., 2017). The result has been a growing literature and a consensus that there are no blanket solutions.

In this respect, it would be misleading to characterize pediatric urologists, as some have done, as being inherently pro-surgery. There are conditions where surgery is almost certainly the wrong solution, just as there are conditions for which results of surgery have statistically proven to be overwhelmingly positive, such as if needed to save the life of the infant due to functional issues.