Ethics of Reporting on Genderless Child? - iMediaEthics

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(Credit: The Mark News)

Margaret Somerville, McGill University’s director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics, and Law, questioned the ethics of reporting on the Canadian child described as “genderless” because his/her parents are keeping the child’s gender secret to all but a handful of people.

According to the Australian, the parents of the genderless child, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, have decided that by not telling anyone what gender baby Storm is, Storm can decide “whether he or she decides to live as a boy or girl.”

Somerville commented that “The media may have made a mistake by identifying the child being raised without a gender.”  The Toronto Star, for example, had a reporter “spending two days with the family and bringing in a photographer” to report on Storm.

While the family did give consent for the interview, how will the baby “feel about the story” twenty years from now, Somerville wondered.  She wrote: “The question is ethically relevant because of the doctrine of anticipated consent. When a person cannot consent to an intervention for themselves, it is only ethical to proceed if we can reasonably anticipate they would consent if able to do so.”

Also, Somerville noted that the story may not be in the public interest of Storm because the child’s privacy has been violated as the story is reported. Somerville commented:

“It’s paradoxical that the parents emphasize the importance of privacy in relation to Baby Storm’s sex in order not to inhibit the child’s ‘gender choices,’ but they have been complicit in this enormous breach of family privacy.”

UPDATE: 06/16/2011 9:46 AM EST: Added information from the Australian about the parents’ choice to raise baby Storm genderless.

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