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Intersex person sues clinic for unnecessary op

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Intersex person sues clinic for unnecessary op
Photo: DPA
11:48 CET+01:00
Intersex person Michaela Raab is suing doctors in a Nuremberg court, who she said operated on her genitals and put her through female hormone therapy without having told her she was genetically a man.

In 1995, Raab consulted doctors at the University Hospital Erlangen in Southern Germany, wondering why she had never had her period or had her breasts grow by the age of 20.

Doctors put her on female hormone therapy, and she went through an operation to reduce what they told her was an oversized clitoris.

Years later, Raab would discover she had XY chromosomes – making her genetically male - and that her doctors had never let her know.

She said if she had known, she may have decided against the doctors' treatment strategy.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported Raab said nobody asked her if she might have wanted to live as a man.

"They cut my penis off then,” Raab told the court.

After her treatment, she suffered bone pain, migraines, vision ailments, and depression, and became unable to work.

She is demanding €250,000 in damages and a monthly pension of €1,600.

The central question of the case is whether doctors at that time withheld valuable information from Raab that may have altered her decision.

Representatives from the University Hospital Erlangen said doctors were only acting according to the norms of the time – which sought to protect patients against the psychosocial effects of learning the full truth about their chromosomes.

"One can't judge this in hindsight," a representative from the hospital said.

Professor Olaf Hiort, a medical expert from the University Hospital Lübeck called in by the court, said this was indeed the case twenty years go.

The prevailing school of thought among doctors was that patients would not manage the shock and that a transformation into a woman was the simplest and the best alternative existing.

“These days a discussion on chromosome analysis are standard – to explain, why we develop as we develop,” Hiort said.

Surgeries are now dependent on what the patient wants, Hiort said.

This is the second case of an intersexual person bringing doctors to court for malpractice in Germany.

In 2008, nurse Christiane V., successfully sued surgeons for removing her ovaries and uterus, irreversibly forcing her to live as a man. She received €100,000 in damages. 

An estimated 80,000 intersex people live in Germany, according to intersex rights group Intersexuelle Menschen.

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