The Savagery of Automating Genital Mutilation Surgery

AP Photo/John Hanna

Now, they are automating genital mutilation. I never thought I’d see the day.

Doctors, when admitted to practice, still take the Hippocratic Oath, last time I checked. That Oath, in the original, states in part (translated from the Greek):

Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free. And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession, as well as outside my profession in my intercourse with men, if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets.

That first part is the principle you generally hear described as “first, do no harm,” while the second has to do with doctor/patient confidentiality; it is of the first portion that I’m concerned with today. Why?

Because the Oregon Health & Science University has now implemented practices that fly in the faces of health and science, and directly deny that portion of the Hippocratic Oath. What’s more, they have taken it to the next level and automated the process. I don’t see how we can call this ‘progress,’ and not ‘savagery.’

The gender surgery program at Oregon Health & Science University, a public teaching hospital in downtown Portland, provides a productive tableau for analysis. The program is led by Blair Peters, a self-described “queer surgeon” who sports neon-pink hair, uses “he/they” pronouns, and specializes in vaginoplasty (the creation of an artificial vagina), phalloplasty (the creation of an artificial penis), and “non-binary” surgeries, which nullify the genitals altogether. Peters and his colleagues have pioneered the use of a vaginoplasty robot, which helps efficiently castrate male patients and turn their flesh into a “neo-vagina.”

Business is booming. According to Peters, OHSU’s gender surgery clinic has “the highest volume on the West Coast,” and his robot-assisted vaginoplasty program can accommodate two patients per day. His colleague Jens Berli, who specializes in phalloplasty, boasts a 12- to-18-month waiting list for a consultation and an additional three- to six-month waiting list for a surgical appointment.

Remember the “first, do no harm” clause? This isn’t about someone dressing differently, changing their name, and presenting themselves as the opposite sex; if this issue were limited to that, most people wouldn’t care in the slightest. But while the transgender controversy began as a social movement and became a social contagion, it’s now dangerously close to descending into savagery. Yes, savagery; I think carrying out experimental, disfiguring surgeries on healthy bodies qualifies.

This procedure is plagued with complications. OHSU warns of wound separation, tissue necrosis, graft failure, urine spraying, hematoma, blood clots, vaginal stenosis, rectal injury, fistula, and fecal accidents. Patients must stay in the hospital for a minimum of five days following the procedure, receiving treatment for surgical wounds and having fluid drained through plastic tubes. Once they are home, patients must continue on transgender hormone treatments and manually dilate their surgically created “neo-vagina” in perpetuity; otherwise, the tissue will heal, and the cavity will close.

Look at that list of complications. Imagine suffering through that, because of a mutilating surgery carried out on a healthy body.  Now: Read that last sentence again. Let it sink in. Think about it. As unpleasant as it might be, picture it.

This is the process that now is in such sufficient demand that the Oregon Health & Science University, in a move that negates both health and science, is inventing a robot to speed up the procedures. And, no, they are apparently not limiting it to consenting adults.

One question provokes particular dread: Are the surgeons at OHSU using these machines on children? The answer appears to be yes. In an interview, Peters acknowledged that, in recent years, he has seen “a lot of adolescents presenting for surgical intervention” and that he has performed genital surgeries, including the robot-assisted vaginoplasty, on “a handful of puberty-suppressed adolescents.” Peters further stated that OHSU is “just putting [its] first series together” related to adolescent vaginoplasty and that “no one has published on it yet.” (When reached for comment, OHSU declined to respond.)

I’ll damn well bet OHSU declined to respond. They have to know, at some level, that they would be asked to defend the indefensible. When, in third world countries, people commit genital mutilation on their daughters to prevent sexual pleasure, they are (rightly) derided as barbarians. When done in an American university hospital, it’s celebrated as “gender-affirming care.” But there’s no caring, here. There’s nothing being affirmed. It’s a terribly risky procedure that almost never ends well, except for the attending physician’s bank accounts.

In H.G. Wells’ 1896 novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, Wells described a mythical island where a British vivisectionist – the Dr. Moreau of the title – is conducting unspeakable experiments, binding human and animal bodies together to create unspeakable monsters. Wells’ tale here was a warning about unchecked experimentation, the product of a time when vivisection was being widely debated in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. But the ‘transspecies’ aspect aside – for now – we are now looking down the same story arc, only instead of blurring the line of species, we’re blurring the line of civilization.

This is no longer about using the wrong pronouns. It’s no longer about beer companies making stupid marketing moves. It’s about health care providers ignoring their oaths. It’s about genital mutilation surgeries, doing irreparable harm to healthy bodies. It’s damn near Frankensteinian – and now it’s being done by machine.


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