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Everyday Ethics

Gender and Sex Equity Initiative Speaker Series: The Clinic and Elsewhere "Curiosity, Ethics, and the Medical Management of Intersex Bodies"

Ellen Feder, Professor of Philosophy at American University and expert on the ethics of intersex medical treatment, examines the ways that intersex bodies have become "curiosities" in the medical world, as well as the consequences arising from such curiosity.
by Betsy VanNoy Nov 05, 2018
When Nov 28, 2018
from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Where 201 Thomas
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Curiosity, Ethics, and the Medical Management of Intersex Bodies

Ellen Feder

To consider the recent history of the medicalization of intersex bodies requires acknowledgment of the ways that such bodies have been made “curiosities,” objects of scientific investigation associated with harms now recognized as human rights violations. In this presentation, I propose that focusing on curiosity itself may help us better understand and appreciate the moral violation of medical treatment of intersex. I also suggest that examination of curiosity in this context may challenge some settled beliefs about this history of the standard of care, and furthermore help us to better appreciate the consequences of a refusal to be curious. 

Ellen Feder is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at American University, where she also teaches in the program in Women and Gender Studies. She has been an active member of ISNA since 1999, when she first presented a paper at the American Philosophical Association that considered the failure of bioethicists to intervene in the medical management of intersex. She has since published work resulting from interviews she conducted with parents of children with intersex, and was a member of the Hastings Center working group, “Surgically Shaping Children.” She is also a member of ISNA’s Medical Advisory Board.