Biological classification is basic in medicine
Postmodern gender and sex ideologies may dominate our culture, but they must not conquer schools that train healthcare providers. Bad ideas about biology can cost lives.
Sex is “a label you’re given at birth,” according to Planned Parenthood. A woman “is something that a person can define for themselves if they choose to be it,” according an activist Hampshire College invited to speak last week. People “can change their sex by some kind of behavioural process,” according to English philosopher Kathleen’s Stock‘s critical take on the ideology.
This doctrine is dominant in college curricula, the arts, women’s sports, and the progressive left generally. Heretics have been silenced and canceled.
Transgender people need medical care just like everyone else, and healthcare providers must be attentive and respectful. However, providers also should acknowledge the reality of sexed bodies.
“In recent years, medical ethicists have plunged into the debate, arguing that binary sex ‘can actually hinder diagnoses, care, and treatments,'” Charlotte Blease wrote May 6 in The Critic magazine. Blease, a medical ethicist, called these claims “reckless and irresponsible.”
“The denial of sex doesn’t help anyone, perhaps least of all transgender patients who require special treatment,” journalist Katie Herzog wrote in a July 2021 article for The Free Press titled “Med Schools Are Now Denying Biological Sex.”
Herzog’s article cites a 2019 report in The New England Journal of Medicine that illustrates progressive gender theory and shows why it is dangerous.
“A 32-year-old transgender man, presenting with severe lower abdominal pain and hypertension, is classified as a man who hasn’t taken his blood-pressure medications,” read the paper’s preview. “When examined several hours later, he’s found to be pregnant, but no fetal heartbeat can be detected.” The pregnancy was advanced, and the “man,” whom the article calls “Sam,” went into labor as the staff scrambled to help.
The child was stillborn. “Though he had not planned or expected the pregnancy, [Sam] was heartbroken at the loss of his baby and had a major depressive episode,” according to the article.
When Sam was admitted to the hospital, the medical records said “male.” Sam looked masculine, and “the triage nurse noted that he was an obese man.”
It’s understandable that the nurse made this assessment. Even though Sam said he was a transgender man, the nurse had likely heard the slogan “trans women are women” and been taught to accept someone’s self-declared sex or gender.
The nurse’s problem, according to the NEJM, was that she “deployed implicit assumptions about who can be pregnant.” She should have understood men can get pregnant too, according to the paper’s authors, and as a Planned Parenthood doctor told Congress last year.
The NEJM authors treated sex classification as though it was the problem here. But classification was necessary in this case. Sam was a biological female. If the medical professionals had noted that earlier, the baby might have lived.
The NEJM acknowledged way down in the article there are “instances…in which it is important to recognize and address issues related to a person’s sex at birth.” But that concession raises too many questions. Which instances? Why some and not others? Why would “sex at birth” be relevant necessarily, if, according to gender ideology, sex can be reassigned?
Healthcare workers need to make judgments fast. When a person enters the emergency room, doctors and nurses shouldn’t be expected to consider the patient’s placement along a confusing, alleged sex spectrum. Human beings, like other mammals, are still unambiguously and identifiably male or female in the vast majority of cases, with very few exceptions. Gender identity doesn’t indicate how to treat sexed bodies.
Many conditions present differently in males and females
Sex is a basic criterion for determining whether someone is pregnant, of course, as well as whether they have reproductive problems and many other health issues.
“Other conditions that present differently and at different rates in males and females include hernias, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and asthma, among many others,” Herzog reported in her article. “Males and females also have different normal ranges for kidney function, which impacts drug dosage. They have different symptoms during heart attacks.”
“More generally, from auto-immune illnesses to depression, and from thyroid conditions to osteoporosis, the prevalence and risks of illness differ for women and men,” according to Blease.
In an article published this year in the “The Journal of Controversial Ideas,” philosophers Susanna Boxall and Becky Cox-White rejected a proposal to remove the “male” and “female” sex category boxes on healthcare forms. Their conclusion affirms my argument:
Sociocultural objections to the biology-based sex binary do not render that binary useless. As we have shown, the practical uses of this binary in the practice of medicine have had—and continue to have—practical utility.
We have further shown that the negative consequences of removing the sex question from healthcare forms…are extensive, intense, enduring, certain, and will affect millions of people. Finally, we have shown that correctly identifying a patient’s sex is relevant to appropriate and therapeutically successful healthcare.
Biological classification isn’t bigotry. It makes good medicine possible.
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