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State Decides Hermaphrodite Baby's Gender with Irreversible Sex-Assignment Surgery

Adoptive parents sue, calling surgery unnecessary and potentially damaging.
 
 
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - South Carolina's Department of Social Services ordered doctors to do irreversible, medically unnecessary sex-assignment surgery on a year-old child in state custody, her adoptive parents claim in court.
     Pamela and John Mark Crawford sued three doctors and four Social Services workers on behalf of their child, M.C., in Federal Court. M.C. is 8 years old.
     "This lawsuit challenges the decision by government officials and doctors to perform an irreversible, painful, and medically unnecessary sex assignment surgery on a sixteen-month-old child in state custody. Defendants performed this surgery for the purpose of 'assigning' the child the female gender despite their own conclusion that he 'was a true hermaphrodite but that there was no compelling reason that she should either be male or female,'" the complaint states.
     M.C. was taken into state custody because his mother was deemed unfit and his father had abandoned him, according to the complaint. The Crawfords say the parental rights of the child's biological parents were terminated.
     "At birth, M.C. was identified as a male based on his external genitalia. Shortly after birth, however, M.C.'s doctors discovered that M.C. had 'ambiguous genitals' and both male and female internal reproductive structures. As his medical records repeatedly indicated, M.C.'s doctors determined that he could be raised as either a boy or a girl," the complaint states.
     "Despite not knowing whether M.C. would ultimately grow up to be a man or a woman, and whether he would elect to have any genital surgery, Defendants, who include doctors at a state hospital and SCDSS officials, decided to remove M.C.'s healthy genital tissue and radically restructure his reproductive organs in order to make his body appear to be female."
     The Crawfords claim the doctors acted rashly upon Social Services' decision, going ahead with the surgery though there was no medically compelling reason to do so. The defendant doctors, Ian Aaronson, James Amrhein and Yawappiagyei-Dankah, cut off M.C.'s phallus to reduce it to the size of a clitoris, removed one testicle, excised all testicular tissue from the second gonad, and constructed labia, the complaint states.
     "The surgery eliminated M.C.'s potential to procreate as a male and caused a significant and permanent impairment of sexual function," the adoptive parents say.
     M.C. was not quite 16 months old, and "the defendant doctors knew that sex assignment surgeries on infants with conditions like M.C.'s pose a significant risk of imposing a gender that is ultimately rejected by the patient," the complaint states. "Indeed, one of the doctor defendants who performed the surgery on M.C. had previously published an article in a medical journal wherein he recognized that 'carrying out a feminizing-genitoplasty on an infant who might eventually identify herself as a boy would be catastrophic.'"
     The Crawfords say that since he was very young, M.C. has shown strong signs of developing a male gender, and that he is living as a boy.
     "His interests, manner and play, and refusal to be identified as a girl indicate that M.C.'s gender has developed as male. Indeed, M.C. is living as a boy with the support of his family, friend, school, religious leaders, and pediatrician," according to the complaint.
     The Crawfords say M.C. could have been raised as either a girl or a boy until he was old enough for his gender identity to emerge. At that point, they could have made appropriate decisions regarding medical treatment - including whether to have surgery at all.
     "Defendants usurped these intimate and profound decisions from M.C. when he was barely older than an infant, knowing that surgically mis-assigning M.C.'s sex would lead to disastrous results. Unfortunately, medical technology has not devised a way to replace what M.C. has lost," the Crawfords say.
     "By their actions, Defendants also interfered with M.C's future ability to form intimate, procreative relationships, choices central to his personal dignity and autonomy."
     They call the defendants' actions an egregious, arbitrary, and enduring invasion of M.C.'s bodily integrity. They seek compensatory and punitive damages for constitutional violations.
     They are represented by Kenneth M. Suggs of Columbia, S.C.