Forum Posts by
    Alice Dreger

    • Australia’s Passport to Gender Confusion

      Posted on September 28, 2011

      Kudos to Australia for recognizing that some people might not be well served by a passport system that marks you only as either “M” or “F” and does so on the basis of your birth certificate. But, oh, what have they stepped in, as they’ve tried to step forward? At first, I thought maybe the… Read more

    • On Naming Names

      Posted on May 24, 2011

      No names will be named in this essay. Which I guess makes it philosophy. Technically I am trained to do philosophy. I got my masters and my Ph.D. in a department of History and Philosophy of Science – a very fine program located in a marvelous state university situated in one of those Midwestern towns… Read more

    • Blotto, Not Beautiful, Medicine

      Posted on May 16, 2011

      Reading Frank Bruni’s recent review in the New York Times of Provocateur, a chic bar in the meatpacking district, got me thinking about an argument I’d had recently with a family practice doctor. It’s true the argument had driven me to drink, but that wasn’t the essence of the connection between the bar and the… Read more

    • Freedom’s Just Another Word for . . . Restriction?

      Posted on April 27, 2011

      What tools does a university administration have at its disposal to shut up critics on its own faculty? The University of Minnesota wants to know. The university’s administration is exploring this question because its own Carl Elliott won’t shut up about the Markingson case. Elliott, a professor in the Center for Bioethics, just keeps talking… Read more

    • Dr. Oz Can’t Afford Me

      Posted on April 22, 2011

      The first time the Dr. Oz show called me, I was simply too tired to deal. The story of Caster Semenya — the track athlete whose sex had been called into question — had hit the international news the week before, and since then, as an expert on atypical sex, I had done 25 media… Read more

    • Dying for Some Standards: Broken Medical Systems as Revealed by a New FDA Warning

      Posted on March 21, 2011

      I’d like to say I was shocked when a colleague sent me the warning letter from Eli Lilly relaying results of a French study that indicate a 30 percent increased risk of death among children treated with recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) in attempts to make them taller. For years, when I had run into them… Read more

    • Time for the American Anthropological Association to Apologize

      Posted on March 1, 2011

      Last week, the journal Human Nature published via open access an article I wrote following a year of historical research. That article, “Darkness’s Descent on the American Anthropological Association: A Cautionary Tale,” traces how, in 2000 to 2002, leaders in the American Anthropological Association (AAA) aided and abetted the false claims put forth by the… Read more

    • The Tale of Tea with Jim the Third

      Posted on February 14, 2011

      It was one of those messages I get occasionally, this time from a man who had suddenly realized we were just a few blocks away from each other. The writer’s father was at a nearby Northwestern hospital, suffering from a terminal cancer. “While trying to pass some time I went to ISNA’s Web site only… Read more

    • Pink Boys with Puppy Dog Tails

      Posted on December 6, 2010

      In my e-mail in-box a few weeks ago, I received a polite message from a woman named Sarah Hoffman who was writing to ask why I was being such a gender conservative. Sarah didn’t quite put it that way, but that was the gist of her message, and given that I’m usually accused of being… Read more

    • Attenuated Thoughts

      Posted on November 19, 2010

      I was invited to join the Seattle Growth Attenuation and Ethics Working Group — collective author of the lead article in the current issue of the Hastings Center Report — but I begged off, claiming I had too many other things on my plate. True, but the bigger reason for avoiding the project was my suspicion… Read more

    • Nationalizing IRBs for Biomedical Research – and for Justice

      Posted on October 22, 2010

      I know that when my medical school sends us all an announcement that we’ve broken a record for funded research, I’m supposed to be happy. Wrong week for that. Shortly before this, we faculty got an e-mail from one of our clinician-researchers looking for subjects for an industry-sponsored trial of an experimental surgery aimed at… Read more

    • Legal but Unethical: Who Works on That?

      Posted on September 17, 2010

      It’s hard to say what is most horrifying in Carl Elliott’s report in the current issue of Mother Jones of a young man who died caught up in a pharma study run out of the University of Minnesota. That a man considered mentally ill enough to be facing involuntary commitment was considered well enough to… Read more

    • The Other July Effect: Tribalism in Medicine

      Posted on August 19, 2010

      Every summer, our household lives through “the July effect.” The mate, an internist, spends extra time at teaching rounds with his brand new residents, hoping they will beat the odds and not hurt patients disproportionately with their greenness. Our son, now 10, tightens his bike helmet a little extra, telling his friends, “This is not… Read more

    • Preventing Homosexuality (and Uppity Women) in the Womb?

      Posted on June 29, 2010

      Two weeks ago, Time magazine reported on our ongoing efforts to protect the rights of pregnant women offered dexamethasone, a risky Class C steroid aimed at female fetuses that may have a form of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). It appears many women and children exposed to dexamethasone through this off-label use are not being enrolled… Read more

    • Bad Vibrations

      Posted on June 16, 2010

      In “The Rhetoric of Dehumanization: An Analysis of Medical Reports of the Tuskegee Syphilis Project,” Martha Solomon brilliantly demonstrates how the project’s researchers hid their work in plain sight. Specifically, Solomon used the published reports of the Tuskegee syphilis study – which involved medical professionals actively withholding medicines from black men with syphilis for four… Read more

    • Prenatal Dex: Update and Omnibus Reply

      Posted on March 18, 2010

      Our Bioethics Forum essay from a little over a month ago has already spawned three further essays. So we’ve asked the editors to indulge us in this single reply and update. To recap, in early February, we called upon scholars in bioethics and allied disciplines to join with us in expressing concern over the possible experimentation… Read more

    • Of Kinks, Crimes, and Kinds: The Paraphilias Proposal for the DSM-5

      Posted on February 19, 2010

      When is a kinky interest really sick? That’s the central question the Paraphilias Sub-Work Group of the American Psychiatric Association has had to face as they’ve developed proposed revisions for the DSM-5. Pity those given the task of trying to figure out how, when, and why to medicalize or de-medicalize everything from asexuality to zoophilia… Read more

    • Fetal Cosmetology

      Posted on February 8, 2010

      There’s a common misperception that, now that the Johns Hopkins psychologist John Money is gone, so are all the ethical problems with the way people with genital anomalies are treated. Not so. You may recall that Money lied about the life of his patient David Reimer (known as “John/Joan”), who as a baby had been… Read more

    • Intersex and Sports: Back to the Same Old Game

      Posted on January 22, 2010

      If you’re trying to make sense of the “decisions” just made in Miami about sex-typing in sports, and you’re struggling, join the club. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) presumably tasked the group of expert physicians who just met in Miami with the job of coming up with a fair way to decide who should be… Read more

    • Attention Shoppers: LBGT Rights Apparently Not Worth $6.67 to the American Psychological Association

      Posted on December 29, 2009

      Using the power of one’s wallet to effect social change: that’s got to be one of the best-loved steps in the beautiful dance we call American democracy. And so leaders in the LBGT activist community have called for a boycott of businesses owned by individuals who contributed to California’s Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment… Read more

    • Does the NFL Need PETA?

      Posted on October 1, 2009

      An article in this week’s New York Times revealed new evidence of a disturbingly high risk of dementia among National Football League players. Conducted at the University of Michigan and commissioned by the NFL itself, a not-yet-published study reportedly finds that “players ages 30 through 49 showed a rate of [dementia-related diagnoses] 19 times that… Read more

    • Medicine Needs a Declaration of Independence from Cosmetic Procedures

      Posted on July 6, 2009

      What is medicine for? I found this question on my mind recently, not only because I had been discussing it with a group of thoughtful medical students to whom I was teaching the history of medicine, but also because I was shopping for a bra at Bloomingdale’s. On my lunch break, I found myself alongside… Read more

    • How and Why to Take “Gender Identity Disorder” Out of the DSM

      Posted on June 22, 2009

      As a wizened gender rights advocate, I know better than to assume the activists making the most noise are actually representative of “the community” they insist they represent. So, while American transgender activists have lately been fairly unified and very vocal about the need to remove “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID) from the Diagnostic and Statistical… Read more

    • Womb Gay

      Posted on December 4, 2008

      Reading an excerpt from the new book Sex and War has got me thinking about the Mormons and California’s Prop 8. Sex and War features a meditation on how biology might help to explain why and how humans kill each other. The battle between the Mormons and the LBGT civil rights movement, now being waged… Read more

    • Footnote to a Footnote: On Roving Medicine

      Posted on October 9, 2008

      “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This insight from Margaret Mead functioned as the guiding inspiration for those of us who worked for years as the Intersex Society of North America. A footnote to a recent Hastings Center… Read more

    • The Vulnerable Researcher and the IRB

      Posted on October 3, 2008

      “Why don’t you just go through the IRB process to protect yourself?” one of my colleagues asked me (again) the other day. And I sighed (again). My tendency is to respond to this question with what is pretty much the standard objections of my fellow members of the American Historical Assocation, objections reiterated again this… Read more

    • Sex Is Good

      Posted on August 22, 2008

      But not always. And that’s kind of the point. OK, let me back up. Like that bad-for-you ex from whom you just can’t seem to make a clean break, the “news” story about how the feds fund questionable sex studies has come back a-knockin’ at the door. We’re supposed to be totally horrified that our… Read more

    • Olympic Problems with Sex Testing

      Posted on July 31, 2008

      Ah, Beijing, where men are men and women are… women until proven otherwise. As reported in the New York Times, “Organizers of the Beijing Olympics have set up a sex-determination laboratory to evaluate ‘suspect’ female athletes.” According to the Times, “only athletes whose gender has been questioned will be tested in Beijing.” This approach betrays… Read more

    • The AMA’s Apology: What’s the Benefit?

      Posted on July 21, 2008

      This past week, the AMA officially issued a “mea culpa” for its history of engaging in discrimination against African-American physicians – except it’s more like a “they-a culpa,” since the AMA administrators are actually apologizing for bad behavior on the part of their predecessors. “They-a culpas” can be just a wee bit self-serving, which might… Read more

    • Lavish Dwarf Entertainment

      Posted on March 25, 2008

      A dwarf walks into a bar. I was searching for a funny anecdote that would begin with that sentence when I ran into Danny Black, a dwarf who has walked into a lot of bars. At the time, I was writing a book about conjoined twins and had decided to open with amusing bar stories… Read more

    • Selective Parenting

      Posted on October 23, 2007

      For years, the abortion of fetuses likely to have disabilities has been called “selective abortion,” but, for reasons made clear in Hilde Lindemann’s thoughtful Bioethics Forumreflection on the matter, the practice might better be called “selective parenting.” It fundamentally reflects, after all, a decision about what kind of parent one is willing to be. As… Read more

    • When HIPAA Hurts

      Posted on September 5, 2007

      Ever since HIPAA went into effect and I’ve been signing that form over and over at my doctors’ offices, attesting to my knowledge of the law, I’ve been feeling I should turn the tables and make my doctors and their staffs sign some form assuring me they know the limits of that law. The latest… Read more

    • Liberty and Solidarity: May We Choose Children for Sexual Orientation?

      Posted on June 20, 2007

      In a just-published New York Magazine piece, “The Science of Gaydar,” writer David France looks at the growing scientific evidence for innate differences between gay and straight people. France ends by gazing towards the future, and asks the question, “What if prenatal tests were able to show a predisposition to gayness?” Well, France reports, “[Northwestern… Read more

    • Products of Conception

      Posted on April 9, 2007

      Deborah Costandine and I met in June of 2004, but she didn’t send me the autopsy report of her baby for another year and a half. So I didn’t start looking for more information about what had happened to her until January of 2006. That’s when Deb wrote to say she was wanted some help,… Read more

    • Ashley and the Dangerous Myth of the Selfless Parent

      Posted on January 18, 2007

      Because I’ve acted as a professional advocate for people born with norm-challenging bodies, quite a number of strangers and familiars have been writing to ask me what I think of the “Ashley Treatment.” Nine-year-old Ashley’s parents decided to remove their severely cognitively-impaired daughter’s uterus and “breast buds” and put her on high-dose estrogen therapy in… Read more

    • Really Changing Sex

      Posted on November 8, 2006

      On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that New York City “is moving forward with a plan to let people alter the sex on their birth certificates even if they have not had sex-change surgery.” Under the new plan “being considered by the city’s Board of Health… people born in the city would be able to… Read more

    • Explaining More, Doing Less

      Posted on October 13, 2006

      As if we didn’t have enough reasons to wish for better informed consent practices in the United States, here’s another: evidence that, if physicians spent more time seeking truly informed consent – telling patients what the best available studies show about their options – their patients might frequently opt out of  optional procedures that cost… Read more

    • So You’re a Scholar Who Wants to Make Things Happen

      Posted on September 13, 2006

      Because for about the last decade I have been a medical humanist working to change the way physicians treat people born with socially-challenging bodies, I’m frequently asked about doing activism from an academic base. Activism-curious academics typically ask about how one goes from thinking about critical change to actually effecting it. Someday maybe just like… Read more

    • The Federal Marriage Amendment and the New One Drop of Blood Rule

      Posted on June 8, 2006

      As anti-miscegenation laws took hold in an effort to stop blacks and whites from marrying, by necessity courts had to start deciding who counted as white or black. The standard that ultimately emerged – namely the “one drop of blood” rule of blackness – dictated that any trace of black heritage, no matter how remote… Read more

    • The Secret Life of the Lunesta Butterfly

      Posted on May 3, 2006

      I’ve got an idea I’m just dying to pitch to the FDA. You know those fantastically seductive animations the drug companies are using to sell prescription medications? There’s the allergy medication ad that shows a woman being harassed by pollen-heavy weeds that are growing up around her as fast as Jack’s beanstalk. And, oh, the… Read more

    • Something Is Actually Happening: Are Bioethicists Doing the Right Stuff?

      Posted on April 12, 2006

      There’s a scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian that always reminds me of academia. It goes like this: The year is 32 A.D. and Brian, an unwitting doppelganger of Christ, is about to be crucified by the Romans. Judith, Brian’s lover and fellow member of the anti-Roman People’s Front of Judea (PFJ), rushes to… Read more

    • Proof that I Like Penises

      Posted on March 10, 2006

      So, a new randomized control trial comes out showing that circumcision in adult males can dramatically reduce HIV infection rates, and all my friends who opted for circumcising their baby boys are holding up the dozens of national news accounts of this saying to me, “See?! See?!” Like I just condemned my son to die… Read more

    The Hastings Center has never shied away from the toughest ethical challenges faced by society.


    The Hastings Center has never shied away from the toughest ethical challenges faced by society.