A children's hospital in Chicago has apologized for its "harmful and wrong" approach to genital surgery on infants born "intersex," with genitals that don't correspond to the usual definitions of male or female. The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, which was responding to a campaign from advocates, is the first hospital in the US to apologize for the cosmetic genital surgeries, CNN reports. " We recognize the painful history and complex emotions associated with intersex surgery and how, for many years, the medical field has failed these children," the hospital said in a blog post. "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."
Advocates said the surgeries could cause lifelong pain, loss of sexual function, and the need for hormone treatment, as well as psychological damage. The hospital said Tuesday that surgeries like clitoroplasties "should not be performed until patients can participate meaningfully in making the decision for themselves," unless they are medically necessary; it notes it has not performed a clitoroplasty on a baby or child in the last five years. "This is a pivotal moment," researcher Dr. Ellie Kim tells the Chicago Tribune. Kim, the first Lurie employee to publicly speak out against the surgeries, describes them as "medically unnecessary, purely cosmetic procedures" that are being done on children as young as 2 "simply to normalize their bodies into a binary definition of male and female." (Read more intersex stories.)