Ira W. DeCamp Bioethics Seminar
ABSTRACT: Debates regarding the ethics of moratoriums or bans on normalizing genital surgeries to assign sex/gender to intersex infants are increasingly framed in terms of a tension between bioethical principles on the one hand, and evidence-based medicine/ethics on the other. Specifically, those swayed by arguments in favor of banning these non-consensual and medically unnecessary surgeries on the basis of bioethical principles such as autonomy and non-malfeasance, find themselves nonetheless unable to support universal bans in light the of clinical evidence that some individuals who have received these surgeries as infants report being happy that they did as adults. In this presentation I will argue in favor of a ban on intersex surgeries by drawing on post-positivist philosophers of science and feminist epistemologists to consider the various roles that clinical evidence can and does play within medical decision-making. I will argue that such evidence may appropriately play an important role in a variety of decisions made regarding the medical treatment and raising of an intersex infant. However, I will show that where surgery is concerned, this evidence is – in fact – irrelevant.
Catherine Clune-Taylor (she/her) is an Assistant Professor in the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University. A feminist science and technology studies scholar, Clune-Taylor takes a critical, interdisciplinary, and intersectional feminist approach to exploring the ways in which science (and other systems of knowledge production), technologies, and institutions function together to shape individuals’ possibilities for life and death.
Clune-Taylor hails from Canada, where she completed all of her academic training. This includes an Honors Bachelor of Medical Science in Microbiology and Immunology, an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, and a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Western Ontario, as well as a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Alberta. She has published articles in Hypatia, PhaenEx: Journal of Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture, and The American Journal of Public Health, and is the author of the chapter “Is Sex Socially Constructed?” in the Routledge Handbook on Feminist Philosophy of Science published in 2020. She is currently at work on two book-length projects. The first, Securing Cisgendered Futures: Managing Gender in the Twenty-First Century, explores medical, legal, political and bureaucratic efforts to force a “cisgendered future” upon individuals without their consent. The second, The Matter of Black Life and Death: Race, Biopolitics and Health Insurance in America explores the ways in which the American system of market-based health insurance tied to employment maldistributes life chances to Black folks in particular
Alesdair Ittelson, the Legal Director at InterAct, Advocates for Intersex Youth, will respond. After studying political philosophy at Brandeis University, Ittelson received a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in creative responses to the intersection of health and LGBTQI inequities, including the first case challenging conversion therapy as consumer fraud, the first public case on behalf of an intersex child subjected to medically unnecessary genital normalizing surgery in infancy, and the first successful piece of state legislation to address the human rights violations faced by intersex youth in medical settings.
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