The Impact of the 2006 Consensus Statement on Medical Discourse on Differences of Sex Development (DSD)
Background: Published in 2006, the Consensus statement on management of intersex disorders sought to reform the medical care of people with Differences of Sex Development (DSD). The authors suggest changes in language to decrease the use of gendering (e.g. masculinized) and pathologizing (e.g. pseudohermaphrodite) language to describe patients. Despite this, people with DSD continue to express discomfort with the language their healthcare providers use. It is critical to address this gap to provide patient-centered care. Providers may struggle to use best language, and may learn the language they use through articles. In this study, a sample of peer-reviewed journal articles are analyzed to assess the impact of the Consensus Statement on the use of gendering and pathologizing language in medical discourse on DSD.
Methods: Comparing articles published in the 10 years before and after publication of the Consensus Statement, this analysis investigates the frequency of use of gendering and pathologizing language (N = 250 articles). Frequency was determined by the percent of journal articles that used each language category and the average number of times words in these categories were used in those articles. Articles were considered for inclusion if they were found on Pubmed using the disorder of sex development MeSH tag, had full text accessible through Oberlin library subscriptions, were in English and focused on human subjects. Articles that fit this criteria, with the greatest number of citations according to Google Scholar, were analyzed.
Results: The percent of articles using gendering language decreased from 47.9% to 32.7% in the 10 years after compared to the 10 years before the publication of the Consensus Statement. Articles using pathologizing language decreased from 95.7% to 92.9%. The average use of gendering (Fig. 1) and pathologizing (Fig. 2) language decreased after the Consensus Statement. Conclusions Despite decreases in the use of gendering and pathologizing language, use of the words continue and people with DSD still voice dissatisfaction. While the Consensus Statement had an impact on the use of language in peer-reviewed journal articles, language that may be promoting a particular viewpoint as to what an acceptable body is persists. As academic journals are a source of education for providers, it is important to be aware that the language used in these articles may influence their perspectives and contribute to communication challenges with patients. Vigilance in writing of manuscripts to use neutral language would be in line with what some patients request, and will continue to focus medical discourse on data rather than opinion.
Jewell, Tess I., Rebecca J. Whelan, Greggor Mattson, et al. "The Impact of the 2006 Consensus Statement on Medical Discourse on Differences of Sex Development (DSD)." Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology 32(2): 209.
Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology
Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies