Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 557–568 | Cite as

Intersexual Births: The Epistemology of Sex and Ethics of Sex Assignment

  • Matteo CrestiEmail author
  • Elena Nave
  • Roberto Lala
Original Research


This article aims to analyse a possible manner of approaching the birth of intersexual children. We start out by summing up what intersexuality is and how it is faced in the dominant clinical practice (the “treatment paradigm”). We then argue against this paradigm, in favour of a postponement of genital surgery. In the second part of this paper, we take into consideration the general question of whether only two existing sexes are to be recognized, arguing in favour of an expansion of sex categories. In the third part, we illustrate the reasons supporting provisional sex attribution: the child’s best interest and respect for their developing moral autonomy. This position aims to increase the child’s well-being and self-determination, limiting parents’ freedom to take decisions on behalf of others, in particular, those decisions concerning basic aspects of their children’s personal identity.


Intersexuality Genital surgery Sex assignment Epistemology of sex Proxy consent Autonomy 


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Education ScienceUniversity of TurinTurinItaly
  2. 2.Pediatric PneumologyRegina Margherita Children’s Hospital, Città della Salute e della ScienzaTurinItaly
  3. 3.Pediatric EndocrinologyRegina Margherita Children’s Hospital, Città della Salute e della ScienzaTurinItaly

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