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9 Oct, 2022 19:37

Top medical center pauses trans surgeries on kids

Tennessee Republicans had urged Vanderbilt University Medical Center to halt the procedures
Top medical center pauses trans surgeries on kids

The Transgender Health Clinic at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center has “paused” gender surgeries for patients under the age of 18, according to a letter sent by the institution’s chief health system officer, C. Wright Pinson, to a state representative on Friday.

In the letter, which Republican Rep. Jason Zachary posted to Twitter, Wright explains that the clinic is pausing “gender-affirmation surgeries on patients under 18” due to the publication of new standard-of-care guidelines last month by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH), citing the need to conduct an internal clinical review and consult a wide array of experts. The review could take “several months,” he added.

While Wright pointed to the new guidelines as Vanderbilt’s reason for “pausing” the controversial procedures, his message was framed as a response to the letter Zachary and other state Republican leaders had written to the medical center last month demanding a moratorium on providing gender surgeries to minors. Zachary hailed it as a victory, tweeting his appreciation to Vanderbilt for addressing the party’s “deep concerns.”

The state politicians had decried the university’s pediatric gender clinic’s practices as “nothing less than abuse.” They also demanded all its affiliates honor so-called conscientious objectors – medical professionals who refuse to perform “certain medical procedures” because of their religious beliefs.

The university official addressed both issues in his response, reassuring Zachary that Vanderbilt was compliant with Tennessee law – including legislation banning hormone treatment for pre-pubertal children. Of an average of five gender-affirming surgeries per year on patients under 18 that Vanderbilt doctors had performed since opening the Transgender Health Clinic in 2018, none were genital procedures, and all patients were over 16 and had parental consent, he insisted.

Additionally, none of the surgeries were paid for by government funds, and the revenue from gender surgeries constituted an “immaterial percentage” of the center’s profits.

Vanderbilt is not the only pediatric gender clinic to back away from some of its more controversial practices. The Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital has struggled to conceal its own history of performing gender surgeries on minors, claiming to only operate on patients over 18 despite a peer-reviewed paper revealing it has performed 65 gender-affirming surgeries on teens as young as 15 since January 2017. 

Tennessee, which adopted the ban on pre-pubertal hormone treatment last year, is one of several states attempting to crack down on practitioners that offer irreversible medical procedures such as hormone treatment and “gender-affirming” surgery to minors, sometimes without parental knowledge or consent. Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, and Arizona have also adopted legal measures restricting such treatments.

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