Hospital denies transgender patient reassignment surgery.
San Francisco based Dignity Health hospital Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael, California, refused to give a hysterectomy to a Sacramento area transgender patient, Evan Michael Minton, 35, according to an American Civil Liberties Union discrimination lawsuit filed on Wednesday April 19th in San Francisco Superior Court. Minton, a former state Capitol legislative aide, sought to receive the hysterectomy in his transition from female to male. The health center cancelled Minton’s surgery the day before it was scheduled. Hinton’s doctor, Sacramento obstetrician gynecologist Dr. Lindsey Dawson, was able to perform the reassignment surgery at another hospital after receiving rights to emergency privileges at Methodist Hospital of Sacramento, but Hinton felt it should have never been called off in the first place. “It devastated me, and I don’t want it to affect my transgender brothers and sisters the way it affected me. No one should have to go through that,” he said.
Elizabeth Gill, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Northern California, who called the hospital’s refusal to perform the surgery a “clear cut case of discrimination” said, “Given the national context, where legal protections for transgender people are under attack, it’s particularly important that in states like California the law is really clear.” The state of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against individuals based on their sex, race, religion, age, disability, marital status or sexual orientation. Hinton is seeking $4000, which is the minimal allowed amount, in damages.
“We have not been served with the complaint and cannot speak to the allegations until we have the opportunity to review them,” Dignity Health Mercy San Juan officials said in a statement regarding the denial of reassignment surgery. “What we can share is that at Dignity Health Mercy San Juan Medical Center, the services we provide are available to all members of the communities we serve without discrimination. We understand how important this surgery is for transgender individuals, and were happy to provide Mr. Minton and his surgeon the use of another Dignity Health hospital for his surgery within a few days.” The statement continued, “We do not provide elective sterilizations at Dignity Health’s Catholic facilities in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) and the medical staff bylaws.” Dignity Health is affiliated with the Catholic church, which strictly prohibits such surgery. The hospital had indicated that the surgery goes against the hospital’s anti-sterilization policies. “In general, it is our practice not to provide sterilization services at Dignity Health’s Catholic facilities,” said spokeswoman Melissa Jue, who said the exception would be “serious pathology and (if) a simpler treatment is not available.”
“I don’t blame the staff,” said Dawson of the reassignment denial. “I don’t blame the administrators. I blame the (Catholic) doctrines.” In November 2015, a group of 10 religious entities opposed inclusion of gender identity in federal health care laws barring sexual discrimination. “We believe, as do many health care providers, that medical and surgical interventions that attempt to alter one’s sex are, in fact, detrimental to patients,” states the letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Such interventions are not properly viewed as health care because they do not cure or prevent disease or illness. Rather they reject a person’s nature at birth as male or female.” The letter goes on to state, ““surgical alteration of the genitalia, in particular, mutilates the body by taking a perfectly healthy bodily system and rendering it dysfunctional.” In doing so, such procedures expose surgeons to the risk of medical malpractice litigation.
“It’s almost magical, just to be able to be congruent with who I am – to have my outer body match my inner self,” Minton said after receiving the surgery. “When I got my complete body, I said, ‘The rest of my life starts here.’ ”