Building Trust: The History and Ongoing Relationships Amongst DSD Clinicians, Researchers, and Patient Advocacy Groups

Horm Metab Res. 2015 May;47(5):344-50. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1548793. Epub 2015 Apr 13.


Individuals born with differences or disorders of sex development (DSD) have been marginalized by society and the health care system. Standards of care in the mid-20(th) century were based on fixing the child with a DSD, using hormonal and surgical interventions; these treatments and the diagnoses were almost never disclosed to the child, and sometimes they were not disclosed to the parents. This led to secrecy, shame, and stigma. When these children became adults and demanded access to their medical records, the realization of the depth of secrecy led to the formation of activism groups that shook the medical community. Despite precarious beginnings, advocates, health care professionals, and researchers were able to elicit changes in the standard of care. The 2006 Consensus Statement on Management of Intersex Disorders called for a multidisciplinary approach to care and questioned the evidence for many of the standard procedures. Standard of care moved from a concealment model to a patient-centered paradigm, and funding agencies put resources into determining the future paths of research on DSD. Recognition of the need to address patient priorities led to changing international standards for including patients in research design. Some challenges that remain include: the findings from the Institute of Medicine that sexual and gender minorities experience poor health outcomes; establishing trust across all parties; developing a common language and creating venues where individuals can participate in dialogue that addresses personal experiences, research design, clinical practices and intervention strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disorders of Sex Development / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Patient Advocacy*
  • Patient-Centered Care / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Trust*