Doctor Denies She's Trying to 'Cure' Lesbianism; Critics Fault Study of Steroid

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A spate of headlines have criticized a New York doctor for purported efforts to cure lesbianism, but once hyperbole is removed, she is faulted more for not making sure pregnant patients are included in formal studies, so their children's health outcomes can be tracked.

Allegations that my goal is to prevent lesbianism are completely untrue, pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Maria I. New said in a recent statement from Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. New is an expert in congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), an inherited hormonal condition that in baby girls can cause masculinized or ambiguous genitalia. Pregnant women who know they are CAH carriers can take a steroid known as dexamethasone or dex to reduce the likelihood of such genitalia in girls.

However, using dex this way is off-label, and medical professionals have started to question whether it should be prescribed, absent rigorous study on how it affected the children.

In her statement, Dr. New said she has been approved to conduct long-term evaluations of children who were given dex for CAH while in utero.

Dr. New noted she has not personally been prescribing dex for some time.

In my six years at Mount Sinai, I have not administered the drug to any woman for the purpose of treating an unborn child, she said.

But gay rights activists and like-minded bloggers, including Dan Savage, Andrew Sullivan and Alex Blaze, have reacted strongly to the idea that any doctor might be helping parents prevent potential lesbianism in children in the womb.

Eliminating human diversity to make some people feel more comfortable is a simple crime against humanity, Mr. Blaze wrote on the online Huffington Post in an item called, The Sad Lengths Some Go to Avoid Having a Lesbian Daughter. Mr. Sullivan also titled a series of posts at his Atlantic blog The Final Solution?

Alice Dreger, a professor of bioethics at Northwestern University; Ellen Feder, philosophy professor at American University; and Anne Tamar-Mattis, executive director of Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC), amplified the outcry with a June 29 article for the Hastings Center, called Preventing Homosexuality (and Uppity Women) in the Womb?

We do not think it reasonable or just to use medicine to try to prevent homosexual and bisexual orientations, the women wrote.

They especially faulted Dr. New and others for giving a risky steroid to women and children who have not been enrolled in controlled clinical trials with review board oversight. …