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Transgender children: bioethicist argues parents shouldn’t have ‘veto power’ in kids’ medical decisions

According to the law, children cannot give ‘informed and competent’ consent.



ASU professor Maura Priest // Tennessee Star

An Arizona State University professor is arguing that children who claim to be transgendered should be able to make their own medical decisions, and their parents should be prevented from intervening.

In her article titled “LGBT Testimony and the Limits of Trust” and published in the prestigious Journal of Medical Ethics, Maura Priest, a professor of philosophy and bioethics, discusses how transgendered and non-binary patients should be allowed to weigh the costs and benefits in deciding if a treatment for gender dysphoria is worth it. She gives an example of a patient who is contemplating undergoing a hormone treatment that comes with a 90% chance of osteoporosis. She contends that despite a doctor advising the patient not to go through with the hormone treatment, that the patient still has the ultimate decision.

“Assuming the patient is informed and competent, then only the patient can make this assessment, because only the patient has access to the true weight of transition-related benefits,” she writes.

While this claim may seem reasonable to some, Priest then makes the absurd leap that children should be extended the same courtesy. “Moreover, taking LGBT patient testimony seriously also means that parents should lose veto power over most transition-related pediatric care,” Priest continues in the article.

This comes with one major problem: the law says children cannot give “informed and competent” consent. According to a risk manager for one insurance company, Paul Weber, “The law authorizes parent(s) or guardian(s) of a minor (anyone under the age of 18) to give informed consent for most medical decisions on behalf of the child. Claims by parents alleging treatment of a minor patient without the consent of the parent are relatively rare.”

In the article Priest goes on to claim that if one child is allowed to undergo hormone therapy, then all should be allowed to do so and anything less would be a form of injustice. “Guardian veto power over identify-affirming care thus results in injustice whenever such power means one trans child is denied the care that another receives,” she writes.

Increasingly people who thought they were transgendered are coming forward with stories of regret. After undergoing hormone therapies, many patients claim to realize it was a mistake and then proceed to de-transition. Famous YouTube personality and trans woman Blaire White has covered many of these stories.

White posted one interview with a young woman who, at the age of 15, started taking testosterone because she identified as a trans man. After four years of hormone therapy, she changed her mind and started the process of de-transitioning.

At the beginning of the video, White discusses how the idea of de-transitioning is shunned. “De-transitioning is something that is incredibly taboo within the trans community. A lot of people who tell their stories of de-transitioning are bullied and shamed and silenced.”

Elle, the young de-transitioning woman, admitted that in her adolescence she was going through mental health issues, and when she discovered transgenderism, she was convinced that was “the thing” that must be the root cause of the problems.

When she was asked what her biggest regret of taking the hormone treatments was, she expressed that she is self-conscious of her now very masculine voice. Because she started the treatments at such a young age she was able to achieve a “cis-man’s voice” via testosterone. “Having to come to the realization that I don’t want to present as a man anymore, and having to deal with the fact that I once had a perfectly normal teenage girl voice, and I just let testosterone destroy it. It’s really hard to deal with that,” Elle told White.

Late last year, the High Court of the UK ruled that “[c]hildren under 16 with gender dysphoria are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment with puberty-blocking drugs,” according to the BBC.

Key testimony in the court’s ruling came from 23-year-old Keira Bell who was given puberty blockers at age 16 as treatment for gender dysphoria. Today Bell says she wishes the clinic would have challenged her intentions. “I should have been challenged on the proposals or the claims that I was making for myself,” Bell said. “And I think that would have made a big difference as well. If I was just challenged on the things I was saying.”