The story surrounding Pediatric endocrinologist Maria New's use of an experimental hormone to treat congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a condition that can cause "ambiguous genitalia" in female fetuses, is now getting attention from several other news publications. As posted here in June, the hormone has an alarming side effect that could potentially prevent lesbianism in the womb. CAH is a rare condition and only occurs in about a few dozen US births a year.
The LA Times reports:
The hormonal treatment "theoretically can influence postnatal behavior, not just genital differentiation," said Ken Zucker, psychologist in chief of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, who studies gender identity. "Some people refer to girls with CAH as experiments of nature because you've got this condition and you can take advantage of studying it."
Dreger and critics — which include the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Advocates for Informed Choice (an organization that works to protect the rights of people with intersex conditions), and some pediatric endocrinologists and parents of children with the condition — say far too little is known about the safety of the hormone, the steroid dexamethasone, when used prenatally. They say it should be used sparingly, in closely monitored clinical trials, or not at all. They're even more concerned that some doctors might tell parents that a reduced chance of homosexuality is one of the therapy's benefits.
"Most clinicians speak about this treatment as ambiguous-genitalia prevention," said Dreger, who co-wrote an editorial about the treatment in a July publication of the Hastings Center, a bioethics organization. "Others suggest that you should prevent homosexuality if you can. But being gay or lesbian is not a disease and should not be treated as such."
New denies the accusations that she is attempting to prevent homosexuality, telling Businessweek: "In my six years at Mount Sinai I have not administered the drug to any woman for the purpose of treating an unborn child. Allegations that my goal is to prevent lesbianism are completely untrue."