Careful – this may be TRIGGERING, and the links may be TRIGGERING.
Dr Dix P. Poppas of Cornell University Medical School has been performing genital surgery on little girls, and then doing follow-up work testing how much sensation the girls have (left). Here is the abstract for the article in which he reported the research: Journal of Urology: Nerve Sparing Ventral Clitoroplasty: Analysis of Clitoral Sensitivity and Viability: Volume 178, Issue 4, Supplement, Pages 1598-1601 (October 2007).
Here is the article on Bioethics Forum which reveals the story.
The Hastings Center, which hosts the Bioethics Forum, is well known for its work in bioethics. I’ve been reading Hastings Center reports for years, in connection with my work. It is a reliable source. The authors of the post are Alice Dreger and Ellen K Feder. Dreger has been criticised by intersex people, but that particular line of criticism does not seem to have a bearing on this issue.
Alice Dreger has a follow-up post at her Psychology Today blog: Can you hear us now?.
I’m appalled. How could this still be happening, in the 21st century? Dreger and Feder compare the doctor’s actions to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, because he conducted his research in plain view, but I think there are closer parallels with Herbert Green and his non-treatment of some women at National Women’s Hospital. In both cases, I see a doctor determined to prove that he is right, and to hell with the consequences for the people he is supposed to be trying to help.
The obvious question is how on earth did Dr Pappas get his work approved by Cornell’s Ethics Committee? The answer is that he didn’t.
How come the article says Poppas had IRB (ethics oversight) approval and we suggest he probably didn’t? Because what he has approval for is retrospective chart review, a harmless little look back at what he recorded in the charts as having happened to his patients. What he didn’t do was to get approval in advance for the “clitoral sensory testing” that he was writing down in the chart and then used to produce the systematic and generalized conclusions about his technique. This may sound like a technicality. It isn’t. If he had sought IRB approval for the “sensory testing,” the ethics staff might have sat up and asked him what the heck he thought he was doing to these girls, and they would have tried to make sure the parents were informed about the unknowns and risks, and the girls could have refused to participate.
This doctor has been using “medical vibratory devices” on little girls and calling it research.
I feel ill.
Melissa has opened a discussion about it: Discussion Thread: Cornell University and FGC, and Melhoukia has been writing about it: This makes me sick: There are not enough content warnings in the world for what you are about to read. I first heard about the article through Feminist Philosophers: FGM at Cornell.
You can contact the Dean of the Cornell Medical School here: email@example.com