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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Discovery at what price?

In May, a man named David Reimer committed suicide. If the name doesn't mean anything to you, be assured that it received a great deal of attention at one time, almost 40 years ago. This was when Dr. John Money, a sex-change pioneer at Johns Hopkins, decided to experiment with sex reassignment on the toddler after a botched circumcision. Convinced that gender is only a matter of nature, and not at all of nurture, he used this baby as his test subject to attempt to prove his theory.

No doubt we've all heard tales of doctors "playing God" with other people's lives; but this exceeds even the cold calculations of those who feel better qualified than either patient or God to determine what is best for the patient. What makes it worse is that he didn't do this sex reassignment to help the child, but to test a theory. The really scary thing is that the medical establishment allowed a child too young to consent to be used as a subject in an experiment not of medicine but of sociology.

We seem, in the past century, to have come to a point of believing that unconscionable actions must be allowed, if they are for the purpose of gaining knowledge. The tragic irony of this story is that David's sex reassignment came at a time when Americans really wanted to know that Hitler was wrong, and that it was nurture and not biology that made people what they are; yet the coldness of experimenting with a human being's sexual identity and genitals to prove the point fits rather too well with the attitudes of Nazi Doctors who experimented on Jewish subjects to gain information and test theories.

I won't go into the details of David Reimer's painful journey that led to such a sorrowful end, but you can read more about it in the article linked above. All I can add is that I pray God's mercy on his soul. Truly, this man has suffered enough.