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Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professor Emerita Julie Greenberg Delivers Annual John F. Crigler, Jr. Lecture

November 10, 2017

On October 4, 2017, Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professor Emerita, Julie Greenberg, delivered the 2017 annual John F. Crigler Lecture at Boston Children’s Hospital .  Professor Greenberg was invited to address an audience of more than 100 physicians, psychologists, social workers, and lawyers about the complex legal, ethical, and human rights issues that may arise during the treatment of a child with an intersex condition or DSD (Difference of Sex Development).  

Since 2012, a number of international human rights organizations and government agencies have called for a moratorium on infant genitoplasties (surgeries performed on children born with atypical genitalia).  These government agencies and NGOs have concluded that such surgeries have not been proven to provide any physical or psycho-social benefit.  These surgeries, however, may lead to life-altering negative consequences, including physical complications  (loss of sexual sensation, painful intercourse,incontinence, scarring, and the need for repeat surgeries) and psychological harm.  These surgeries are especially traumatic if the child’s eventual gender identity does not match the surgically modified genitalia.

Organizations calling for a moratorium include the WHO, multiple U.N. Committees, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.  These organizations have concluded that such surgeries are a human rights violation and should be delayed until the children are old enough to decide for themselves whether to undergo any treatment.  Although a number of international government agencies have also recommended that these surgeries end, thus far, Malta is the only country to pass legislation banning such procedures.

“That this honor was bestowed on a law professor from California speaks volumes about what Professor Greenberg’s published scholarly work has accomplished over the last two decades,” said Thomas Jefferson School of Law Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Scholarship Susan Bisom-Rapp. “Professor Greenberg begin writing about the ethics, law, and human rights implications of the treatment of sex and gender non-conformity at a time when the public was mostly unaware of these conditions.  The impact of her work is tangible, speaks to diversity and inclusion, and more generally to the social justice mission of our law school.”