‘Chilling Effect’: Here’s How Lawsuits Could Take Down The Child Sex Change Industry

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Laurel Duggan Social Issues and Culture Reporter
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  • Lawmakers have proposed several measures expanding the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits related to child sex changes in order to hold medical professionals financially liable for harm done to children through these procedures.
  • Advocates for these measures believe they could halt the child sex change industry by tying massive financial risk to the performance of irreversible medical procedures that children may grow up to regret. 
  • “These large organizations are extraordinarily sensitive to what the lawyers tell them,” Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, board chair of Do No Harm, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “This would be a real chilling effect on any of these large institutions that house gender clinics.”

Legislators are looking to combat the child sex change industry by expanding patients’ rights to sue medical professionals who performed sex change procedures on them as minors.

Supporters of these measures believe that lawsuits from detransitioners — people who once identified as transgender but now regret medically transitioning — could bring the child sex change industry to a halt by making it too financially risky to administer cross-sex medications and surgeries to minors. Most states impose a statute of limitations for medical malpractice of around two years, making it impossible for some detransitioners to sue their medical providers by the time they come to regret medically transitioning, but lawmakers have proposed extending the statute of limitations for childhood sex changes and creating a private right of action for individuals in such cases. (RELATED: ‘No Harm Was Really Done’: Embattled Gender Clinic Told School To ‘Affirm’ Fifth Graders Who Suddenly Came Out As Trans)

One lawsuit seeking damages for medical malpractice related to childhood sex change procedures is already underway: Chloe Cole, a young woman who underwent puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and a double mastectomy between the ages of 13 and 17, is suing Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, the Permanente Medical Group and several doctors who were involved in her transition. Her attorneys allege that medical professionals unquestioningly affirmed her transgender identity and failed to address her many mental health issues including anxiety, depression, speech difficulties, autism spectrum symptoms and body image issues.

Robert Weisenburger, an attorney at LiMandri and Jonna LLP who is representing Cole, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the firm had been contacted by 10 or more patients who are interested in suing over medical transitions they underwent as minors, but he said statutes of limitations were preventing other detransitioners from pressing charges. He believes lawsuits can drastically reduce the size and scope of the child sex change industry, but said it will take more than one case to bring about change.

“[Lawsuits] would eliminate, in a significant way, the financial incentive to experiment on children in this way. And it would reduce the financial viability of operating these types of facilities. And successful malpractice lawsuits can affect licensure of doctors,” he said.

“These are children that are being experimented on, they may be under the influence of hormones for a long period of time, and that itself has an impact on their psychology. The desistance and detransition rates are very high for children who experience gender confusion, but it often takes four or five or more years for them to desist or realize that they need to detransition,” Weisenburger told the DCNF. “It takes even longer for them to process what happened and realize that they should take legal action. So expanding statute limitations is a critical and necessary step to ensure that the rights of these children are protected.”

Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, board chair of Do No Harm and former Associate Dean for Curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, told the DCNF that creating a private right of action and expanding statutes of limitation would sharply curtail the child sex change industry. Most pediatric gender clinics are part of large hospital institutions which are highly sensitive to litigation, he said.

“These large organizations are extraordinarily sensitive to what the lawyers tell them. That’s because most of them are self insured, so they have to put reserves down each year to cover any malpractice lawsuits that they may encounter,” he said. “And if they had to now worry about a trial that might be 20 years out, for example, where they could be sued over not giving proper informed consent or not explaining the the potential complications of these gender related surgeries or medications, this would be a real chilling effect on any of these large institutions that house gender clinics.”

“A child who undergoes a procedure at 15 may wake up at age 30 and realize they made a terrible mistake. Or, more likely, it’s going to happen by four or five years out from their surgery or their initiation of hormones,” Goldfarb told the DCNF. “It takes it takes a long time for them to appreciate that they may have made a mistake.”

Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley introduced a bill Feb. 15 which would create a private right of action for lawsuits against the individuals and entities responsible for child sex changes that harm the mental or physical health of patients; the legislation would hold medical professionals and clinics liable for damages until 30 years after a patient turns 18.

“Children who are harmed by these dangerous procedures, which are often irreversible and sterilizing, will now be able to fight back against those who perpetrated their abuse. And federal taxpayers will no longer be forced to foot the bill for abusive treatment,” Hawley said in a press release.

Arkansas is considering legislation that would allow patients who are physically or mentally harmed by sex change procedures they undergo as minors, including puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries, to sue health care providers for damages and injunctive relief for 30 years after turning 18. The bill makes several exceptions, including for medical professionals who documented two years of continuous transgender identification in a minor prior to their procedures and for cases in which the child’s parent offered informed consent.

The bill was introduced Feb. 6 and is in committee.

Utah is considering a bill that would allow patients to sue providers over sex change procedures they recieved as minors until the patient turns 25.

“Once sizable damages have been awarded in a malpractice suit, we believe it will force medical service providers, health insurers, and employers offering coverage for so-called ‘affirmative care’ to revise their positions,” Joseph Burgo, vice director of Genspect, an organization that’s critical of youth gender transitions, told the DCNF. “Greatly increased exposure will encourage a re-assessment of the risks involved. Genspect believes that outright bans on affirmative care for minors may act as a deterrent, but extending malpractice liability windows and allowing more lawsuits for the recovery of damages will do far more to curtail these dangerous procedures.”

The child sex change industry is massive and growing: There are around 100 gender clinics in the U.S., according to Reuters, and each of those clinics is likely seeing 100 to 300 children annually, Goldfarb told the DCNF. About 300,000 children in the U.S. identify as transgender, according to the University of California Los Angeles Williams Institute, though not everyone who adopts a transgender identity seeks a medical transition.

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